Black Health matters – it has always mattered.
It has mattered for the children, women and men who need emotional, mental and psychological support during their darkest times and even in processing their emotions when their joy overflows.
Despite sometimes being looked down upon in hushed conversations surrounding the need for mental health in the Black community, seeking mental health-related resources is prevalent according to Rev. Dr. Ronné Wingate Sims, an ordained Baptist minister, speaker, teacher and activist, who creates “culturally relevant healing spaces” for individuals working through intergenerational and ongoing trauma.
As the executive minister at Imani Community Church in her hometown of Oakland, Calif., Sims previously told the Michigan Chronicle that she also has a Healing Trauma meditation on the free meditation app HealthyMinds Program.
The meditation app focuses on healing intergenerational trauma. The practice helps people make room for strong emotions by getting curious about them through insight and by leaning on gratitude.
Sims previously said that over time the wounds left behind from traumatic events can lead to issues such as depression, anxiety, addiction or other challenges to mental health and wellness.
“A person can begin to lean on unhealthy behaviors as coping mechanisms to soothe their pain but oftentimes find themselves feeling worse,” she said, adding that unresolved trauma can negatively impact the day-to-day with physical health implications.
“[It can reduce] the quality of our relationships, can hinder creativity and the ability to find joy in ordinary activities like work and play,” Sims said. “The shame around certain kinds of trauma can prevent people from engaging in daily life with their full selves in subtle and sometimes powerful ways.”
Sims added that as a pastor she’s seen unresolved trauma, particularly wounds suffered in childhood, “show up in the pews and even in the pulpit quite often.”
“Stigma around seeking mental health treatment is one of the greatest barriers to seeking help,” Sims said. “This persists largely because the American medical establishment has not always been a trustworthy institution for us. Additionally, [some religious people] believe seeking treatment is incongruent with their spiritual life even though the holy books of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other faiths indicate seeking counsel is not only acceptable but a godly endeavor.”
When traditional therapy is not always readily available some mental health pathways can include:
- One-on-one talk therapy for working through trauma.
- Group therapy — talk therapy with a small group of others with similar concerns and led by a licensed therapist.
- Guided meditation.
- Making or listening to music, particularly African drum circles
- Acupuncture can alleviate some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Regular physical activity — walking, running, dancing, or another exercise.
According to the National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI), part of the “shared cultural experience” in Black communities — like family connections, values, expression through spirituality or music, reliance on community and religious networks — are enriching moments that can be “great sources of strength and support,” NAMI noted.
“However, another part of this shared experience is facing racism, discrimination, and inequity that can significantly affect a person’s mental health,” NAMI said, “being treated or perceived as ‘less than’ because of the color of your skin can be stressful and even traumatizing. Additionally, members of the Black community face structural challenges accessing the care and treatment they need.”
Yet, even with legitimate therapy needs, only one in three Black adults who need mental health care receive it per NAMI.
To receive help and even find culturally competent care ask a provider questions (provided by NAMI) like:
- Have you treated other Black people or received training in cultural competence for Black mental health?
- How do you see Black people’s cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment?
- Do you use a different approach in your treatment when working with patients from different cultural backgrounds?
- What is your current understanding of differences in health outcomes for Black patients?
Getting help can be one’s best bet to handling unresolved Black trauma, which can transcend generations, but seeking help sends powerful messages intergenerationally.
“Wounds from traumatic events can get in the way of a parent fully showing up emotionally for their children,” Sims said. “But a parent who engages in mental health care sets a powerful example for their children and can demonstrate what healing can look like. When we take time to heal, we heal our, too.”