By: Tee-Tee Appah
Of the many stereotypes that plague Black people, the one that I can never seem to shake is archetype of "the Strong Black woman”. This archetype, along with others makes itself present in various forms of media, and especially when describing Black women. Living in a world with so many obstacles stacked against me based solely on my gender and the colour of my skin can be crippling. And yet, I exist and do my best to navigate in a world that was never meant for someone like me to succeed. Dealing with everything from microaggressions, to full blown racism to colourism, and even masking my own Blackness in an effort to make others feel more comfortable with my presence. Yet still, I feel the additional pressure of having to be strong. This experience is not unique to me, so many Black people have had their entire lives shaped by experiences similar to mine.
What are you to do when the burden of being strong is too much? What happens when feelings of stress, anxiety and depression start to feel overwhelming in our day to day lives? An individual’s race should not dictate how and if they should express their feelings or be vulnerable. Black mental health matters even if the world is telling you to be strong.
With the graphic killings of innocent Black civilians being displayed so boldly in the media, evidence of systemic racism is clearly demonstrated in both the judicial system and police force. Systemic racism is present in many systems that make up our societies. It comes as no surprise that systemic racism is just as prevalent in the field of mental health and psychology. Choosing a therapist/counsellor/psychologist that you feel comfortable with is an integral part of taking care of one’s mental health. This can be difficult when the majority of mental health workers are White. Specifically, in the sense that they may struggle to see things from your perspective or be able to truly see and understand both you and your race as one, rather than two mutually exclusive entities. It can be helpful to see a mental health worker who looks like you and is able to understand and relate with the experiences that you go through, having likely lived through similar situations themselves.
There are a resources available to Black people in Winnipeg. Blackspace Winnipeg has worked to create a safe place for Black people here in the city. The organization offers various events and programs specifically for Black people for both recreational and mental health related activities, including group therapy. Additionally, if seeing a therapist is what is best for you, here is a list of BIPOC therapists, counsellors, and peer workers. The costs varies with each person, some are free, some are subsidized, some are on a sliding scale, and others have a set cost per hour. For social media accounts to follow. Check out The Transparent Black Guy who talk about how mental health specifically with Black men, and the Balanced Black girl which also has a podcast! Additionally, there is an Instagram account for queer people of colour in Winnipeg and the Trevor Project has some resources available to POC LGBTQ+ youth.
The year 2020 has been a tough year, with both a world-wide pandemic and having to watch and experience a tremendous amount of anti-Black racism. It can feel like the weight of the world is resting on your shoulders. I urge you all to remember that you do not always have be strong, reaching out for help and guidance when needed can be a truly empowering experience.