I finally finished reading a profound prose about the mental health crisis plaguing the Black community.
I first heard about this book at a African American Mental Health Discussion hosted by H.O.P.E.F.U.L. Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping underserved African American communities in Sacramento, CA.
I became fascinated with the idea of psychological fortitude, a term I had never heard before I attended the virtual discussion to encourage emotional health and better ways for Black people to manage stress.
I wanted to know more about this concept and how to help others unlock Black mental health and well-being which so often gets ignored sadly by the mental health industry.
This book allowed me to make a crucial self assessment about my psychological fortitude or “PF” which is a rating system used to measure your ability to focus during challenging situations in daily life.
On a scale of 1-10 a PF level of ten would indicate you are feeling phenomenal to the point where nothing can break you where as seven means you’re okay and can recover from stress knowing it shall pass.
However if your PF is currently hovering around 0-3 you are completely overwhelmed and may not be sure if you can go on with life.
For a long time I was feeling like four or five at best and telling people I was a seven or above.
It’s not uncommon for us as Black women to take on more than we can handle because we don’t want to be perceived as weak or helpless.
But the truth is we cannot do everything all at once, at least not all by ourselves.
We don’t even realize we have the power to change the stigmas and oppressive system to increase our mental health but it starts by facing our own problems at home first.
Living in fear of being shot is not freedom.
Denying your African-ness is not freedom.
Rather than “calling in black” and staying home from work due to stress caused by the killings of unarmed black men we need to use our cultural tools to forge a path towards healing ourselves and one another.
Take some time to read this groundbreaking book to start embracing hope, live your best life and gain psychological liberation.
Tenured professor of psychology, behavioral science researcher and licensed psychologist, Rheeda Walker PhD addresses Black Mental Health in, “The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health: Navigate an Unequal System, Learn Tools for Emotional Wellness, and Get the Help you Deserve.”
Walker seeks to help African Americans gain language necessary to help us explain what we see and feel.
In her book, Walker emphasizes how we can reach Black psychological liberation and well-being for generations to come.
This book is essential for yourself, a loved one or a mental health professional working with the Black community be able to recognize psychological bondage, mental and emotional health problems.
Did you know that African Americans represent less than 15% of the population but over 25% of those in long term care.
We cannot forget that Black people were put away in insane asylums back in the day so apprehension about mental health care is warranted.
As a race we are often misdiagnosed, diagnosed too late, are unable to access treatment, or too afraid to seek help due to fear of being labeled as “crazy.”
This book with help you understand the myriad ways in which these problems impact overall health and quality of life and relationships.
You’ll also be able to navigate the unequal health care system and develop psychological tools to neutralize ongoing stressors and live a fuller life.
Even if you are not sitting at a level 3 PF you can still take the time to read this book and be aware of the mental health problems within our community so you can be apart of the change.
One of the things I found refreshing about this book I listened to on Audible is how it challenges assumptions many make about the Black community.
Rather than perpetuating the stereotype that all Black people can endure pain because we are strong and have done so for centuries, Walker encourages us to take breaks when necessary and know it’s okay to admit when we can’t take it anymore.
She reminds us that what may have been able to work when we were younger can slowly lead to poorer mental health and deterioration, so it might be time to take off that armor.
It’s a real shame that we often judge others who need help rather than listen and change our perspective.
Maybe if more of us could listen we’d have less hospitals that are reluctant to give African Americans pain medication.
We could show less fear when speaking on matters of suicide and depression because it isn’t just happening to white people.
If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort do not ignore it seek out help from a primary care physician you trust.
It is my hope that we as a Black community find better ways to cope rather than turning to alcohol and other substances.
And to my fellow Black girls who have been a witness to or had the unfortunate and traumatic experience of sexual violence and abuse you are not alone.
You are not fast for living in your own skin. Do not feel pressured to assimilate or code switch to appease other races instead be unapologetically Black.
Educate others about your ancestry and wear your crown with pride.
Embrace your natural hair, dark radiant skin, your African American vernacular and connect with who you are genuinely to pass on to future generations.
Walker emphasizes how we must know who and what to call on in that moment when our mental fortitude is low. We must
speak spiritual discernment through prayer and meditation.
But in addition to spiritual support we can also use a little backup.
Girl you do not have to pretend to not be black for your white therapist.
As Walker mentions, it is highly encouraged to find a mental health professional who is comfortable talking about race.
Being connected to your African-ness creates a good sense of self which is good for your overall well-being.
Rather than labeling impressive feats as “Black girl magic” or “Black boy joy” we should realize that this is who we are as a people.
I don’t want our people to only be celebrated when we achieve remarkable feats instead Black people should be celebrated at all times just because.
If you are not satisfied with where you are now and your needs are not being met, then change it!
As Walker points out, the only way to live a full life is to embrace your African culture and bind together in community.
I could go on and on about all the inspiring pieces of wisdom on this book but the bottom line is be your most vulnerable and authentic self and if nothing else remember that your life matters!
Top Five Quotes
“For anyone to assume psychology is the same regardless of race is to operate from a place of privilege.”
“Black people may do things differently but this is a difference not a deficiency.”
“Be intentional about how you think about and manage reactions to racial injustice.”
“You are the master of your peace.”
“Be willing to let go of who you want people to think you are.”