Narratives matter. Positive self-image, family bonds, strong communities, and a sense of security are fundamental to mental health. For black people, each has been not merely undermined but at times outright attacked by the predominant narratives in place since this country’s inception.
The fight for mental health is real. And necessary.
All of us, whether we are in the suburbs or a jail cell, in therapy or taking our sorrows to Jesus, medicated with Prozac or smoking a blunt, are on a continuum from mental health to mental illness. The daily stressors unique to black people impact our place on this mental health - mental illness continuum and amplify the consequences of unaddressed psychological issues.
We are tasked with navigating a society with a school to prison pipeline flowing with black children, with workplaces where we are the last hired and first fired, and where routine police encounters summon a legitimate fear of death.
Mental health issues can not be a source of shame. They must be understood and ultimately addressed. Mental well being can not be taken for granted. It must be appreciated, protected, and nurtured.
A powerful counter-narrative is essential. And is ours to tell.
It is self-defeating to conform to the predominant narrative, and confining our dialogue about mental health to hushed stigma-laden discussions of mental illness hinders us in shaping our own. Birthed from my perspective as an HBCU educated and Ivy League trained psychiatrist, Ourselves Black is a place where we own the narrative and are unapologetic about our goal: to share imagery and tell stories infused with knowledge that promotes Black mental health.
Sarah Y. Vinson, M.D.
Tiffany Hall, MFT