The importance of self-care for communities of color

July 30, 2020

By Ashley Brown

July is Minority Mental Health Month! Created in 2008, the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is observed each July to bring awareness to the distinct challenges faced by marginalized groups in accessing resources and care for mental illness. It is named in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell, an American author, journalist and teacher who advocated tirelessly to shed light on the mental health challenges faced by Black Americans  and other people  of color. Campbell was stirred to advocacy after encountering an indifferent and broken mental health care system that neglected and stigmatized Black Americans when she tried to support her daughter through mental health challenges. 

While Campbell’s advocacy demonstrated the need for improved access to mental health treatment and awareness of mental illness within communities of color, work still needs to be done. Per the American Psychiatric Association, people of color are less likely to receive mental health care, with only 31% of Black and Latino/Latina/Latinx people with mental illness receiving care compared to 48% of whites.  

Self-care and caring for your mental health are extremely important for people  of color, especially during the economic hardship and social isolation brought on by the new coronavirus (COVID-19) and the systemic racism and disenfranchisement brought into sharper focus by the deaths of Black Americans at the hands of police. AFC spoke to Black mental health professionals throughout Chicago for their advice on the importance of self-care and how people of color can implement it into their own lives. 

Headshot of Kesha Hammond

Kesha Hammond, MA, MPH 
Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor 
Owner, Ascend Counseling & Wellness, Inc 

“Have you ever seen the movie Sister Act with Whoopi Goldberg?  She says a line to her students, which still stands out to me almost 20 years later. The line is ‘if you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention’. I believe that in order to be your best self, you must wake up and pay attention to the needs of your mind, body and spirit. 

During difficult times, you may feel hopeless and wonder when things will get better.  It is easy to lose sight and forget to take care of you. However, it is during these times you must pay closer attention to your needs. I believe taking care of you is the best gift you can ever give yourself. Try practicing self-compassion during these times. Go ahead, try it! Tell yourself the same thing you would tell a friend who is going through what you are going through.” 

Headshot of Valerie Papillon

Valerie Papillon, LCSW, CCTP 
Clinical Director
Chicago Torture Justice Center

“I want to gently remind BIPOC that you are worthy of rest and nourishment. Ask yourself what nourishing your being is needing and create a daily grounding ritual that can be a consistent touchpoint for you each day. This could be checking in with a loved one, meditating, sitting quietly with yourself and allowing yourself to simply be—noticing your heart beating and the sound of your breath—whatever you see fit! I invite you to do something each day that brings you joy—the internet is full of hilarious content that can provide respite from all the trauma we’re enduring repeatedly. Lastly, remember that you carry within you a legacy of resistance and resilience—draw strength from this truth as often as you need to.” 

Kierra Pickens Headshot

Kierra Pickens, MA, LCPC  
Owner, Key Points Counseling 
Accepting New Clients 

“Though these activities can look differently for each one of us, it is important to be mindful of creating space and opportunity for self-care. Setting a date or specific block of time can be useful in making sure you are able to make the commitment to yourself. This not only serves as a commitment to yourself but provides something to look forward to during these challenging times.” 

Dr. Amanda Rankin Headshot

Dr. Amanda Rankin 
Owner, Thrive Psychological Services
Hyde Park, Chicago, IL

“Self-care is one of those things that often gets overlooked; though it is one of the lifelines of good health. For our community, it is that much more critical. Three things you can start doing today:  

  1. Move your body! Whether through dance, walking, exercise, etc.  
  2. Go to a quiet place. Get to know yourself, get comfortable and acquainted with your thoughts and feelings and dreams, journal, meditate, and so on.  
  3. Talk about it with safe people. We often hold things in under the guise of strength but being vulnerable with others is both courageous and cathartic. Be real and honest with your friends, find a therapist, and/or talk to your family.” 

Categorized under Advocacy, Inside Story and National.

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