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The Expedition: Reflections on Minority Mental Health Awareness Month 2020

ex·pe·di·tion /ˌekspəˈdiSH(ə)n/

noun

1. a journey or voyage undertaken by a group of people with a particular purpose, especially that of exploration, scientific research, or war.

2. Promptness or speed in doing something

Black folks, Indigenous People, and People of Color (BIPOC) alike have never been afforded a mere walk in the park on the long way to racial freedom and equality. There have been no rock skipping moments nor Hansel and Gretel tricks intended to make sure we find our way back. The goal is to never return. We’ve only and always been afforded the ability to move forward. It has strengthened us through strife, forging paths that leave our struggles in the dust, and our eyes locked in on the hope of a steadier more level field for all of us. July as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is an ode to a piece this journey.


Created by American author, journalist, teacher and mental health advocate Bebe Moore Campbell, Minority Mental Health Awareness Month’s intention is to illuminate the incomparable mental health struggles faced by underrepresented populations in the United States of America. While in the midst of a global pandemic that threatens the lives of African Americans at higher rates, and continued murders of black people at the hands of the police, it seems that our minds are sometimes the only things that cannot be taken from us. July has been a testament to the marathon that is destigmatizing, breaking down treatment barriers, and educating BIPOC on how to handle stress, relate to others and make sound choices. The ability to sustain a stable mind through the ever-lasting expedition to freedom requires emotional, psychological, and social well-being.


As sure as Harriet Tubman considered the tracks of the underground railroad, and the NAACP strategized the integration of schools, so should we surely prepare our minds for the expedition of the movement. Whether your activism rests loudly at the front of the pack, or stoically behind the scenes, mental preparation has always been a key element in the forward movement of black folks. With powerful patience and great intention, qualities of our past and present heroes, our commitment to mental health can begin with establishing a wise mind. A wise mind is a balance between three of our primary states of mind: emotional, reasonable, and physical.


The emotional mind is that of our psyche driven by feelings. We find ourselves here when our thoughts and actions are controlled strictly by how we feel. This can be a dangerous place for BIPOC because racism itself is traumatic. Race-induced trauma can be a result of interactions experienced in major areas of life such as workplace discrimination or hate crimes that interrupt social life. On the other side, this trauma can also result from the small instances of everyday microaggressions and discrimination. Race-based trauma can produce feelings of embarrassment, anger, shame, hyper-vigilance, sadness, anxiety and other emotional difficulties that become chronic and consistent, thus creating risks for major mental health concerns. While the road may appear dark and long, the safest place for one to be is exactly where they are. Considering ways to practice mindfulness, or the skill of being aware and grounded in the present moment at hand is a solid first step towards denying our emotions power over our behavior. Start with trying Liberate, a meditation app specifically for BIPOC.


The reasonable mind is that of our brain driven by logical thinking and empirical facts. It is the “reality of things” no matter how much the truth may conflict or provide confusion. To continue moving forward, those plagued by an overwhelming amount of life challenges may take up protecting themselves by attempting to avoid, change or control their reality. While this may prove helpful in the short-term, it does not allow for the appropriate processing and awareness needed for true healing. While we must accept that African Americans are statistically more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites, so may we also acknowledge our historical display of resilience and continued marching that has produced lasting contributions to the world. Equipping yourself with accurate information and resources, can help us recognize and reign in our emotions. Try refining your social media timelines to show reliable information sources and identifying specific times of day meant to digest fact that will fuel you down the right path. @amethystcounseling, @therapyforblackgirls, and @blackmenheal are a few social media platforms to start with via Instagram and Facebook.


The physical mind is the experience of our body sensations. Alongside our feelings and reasonable thoughts, we all have a physiological response to how our mind interprets information. While physical changes felt within the body can be startling or overwhelming, it is important to remember that pain or physical discomfort is an indication to pay attention. While we are often taken aback by a fast beating heart, a shaky voice, or increased fatigue, these sensations and others can provide us with information regarding what danger we may be in, what needs we may need more of, or the presence of something gravely important in our lives. A great place to begin allowing your body to accurately assess your surroundings is by identifying areas of improvement when it comes to your sleeping, eating and exercise habits. It can also be helpful to engage in deep breathing exercises such as a “body scan” in which you close your eyes, breathe, and allow yourself to make mental contact with each major muscle group, finding and relieving any pressure or tension. When our body responds in a healthy way, we can use the information to fuel us through false threats and move towards thriving and living full and meaningful lives. Follow @livingforsynergy and @blackgirlsbreathing on Instagram to begin identifying ways to enhance your physical self through breath and movement.


While BIPOC are no strangers to the bustling highways towards justice and mental freedom, a balance of our emotional, reasonable, and physical minds is critical to steer ourselves with a wiser mind into our wildest dreams. Our ancestors have paved the way for us, so it is our cultural responsibility trek towards the vision they created for us while expanding our own. While Minority Mental Health Awareness month of 2020 ends, our expedition is constantly beginning, and our brilliant minds, are, and will always be the light leading the way.

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