Mental health is a term most would coin as trendy due to today’s social climate. But for those who suffer from mental health issues, this isn’t a trend we wanted to be apart of. In 2017, we saw an increase in millennials experiencing mental health illness higher than any age group. Within the Black community, Black Americans are 10% more likely to experience severe psychological distress. With many factors from racial discrimination and economic stress, mental health for the Black community can be affected by different things happening. Journalist, publicist, and media personality, D’Shonda “Shonda” Brown has made it her mission to destigmatize the conversation of mental health within the Black community. From the story of her surviving her suicide attempts to seeking therapy, she shares with us intimate moments on her struggle. She is reminding us that everyone has their battle.
You discuss the story where your father found out about your struggle with your mental health and wanted to help you further, do you feel it’s possible for more kids now to discuss these issues with their parents or how would you advise parents to approach this conversation?
I definitely feel like it could be an opportunity for parents and their children to grow closer and have a chance to break the stigma, especially in communities of color. Then again, some people may view it as a Catch 22 because opening that door can leave regrets for the child if they feel forced and then the parent feels overwhelmed with worry and concern. I think that parents should definitely let their child know that they’re there for emotional support if their child ever needs it, but it’s important to not make your child feel forced or keep pressing the issue.
When I first started experiencing depression and anxiety, I wanted to cry out to my mom and tell her, but I couldn’t because I felt that if I did tell her, it would because I felt this pressure to fake a smile or okayness, and not because I was comfortable with telling my truth. Anyone should ONLY tell their story if they’re comfortable with sharing and not because they feel like they have to.
The parent should open the door to the conversation, but allow them to come to you when you’re ready unless you believe they are at risk of self-harm or harming others.
You are an advocate for Black Mental Health, with so many celebrities of color speaking up on these issues and access to apps to help your head space, do you feel that more Black Americans are becoming conscious of their mental health?
I absolutely do, and it’s funny because I just wrote an opinion piece on REVOLT about the work of celebrities and influencers within the mental health space. We’re being more open about our mental health on social media with hashtags, going on lives, and even as simple as commenting on each other’s pictures asking about our mental wellness. COVID-19 is even allowing us to be more introspective about how much our mental health really matters when everything monetary and materialistic is striped from us.
I see more and more people everyday coming forward about their personal experiences with rape, trauma, domestic violence, suicidal ideations and countless other topics. Though all of these events are tragic and I wouldn’t want to wish these on my worse enemy, by talking about it, we’re developing a community that we’re not yet recognizing of survivors that we can always call on when we need support.
With stepping up and elevating titles, you are the queen of this, but you are also openly honest about your struggle. What advice do you have for those who feel they have to mask their struggles because of fear?
Thank you so much, first of all. It really means a lot.
I get told all the time that I’m so brave and confident, but anyone who is reading this needs to know that I wasn’t always like this. I also didn’t just wake up and say, “I’m going to share my story today”. This took a lot of time to reflect on my self-worth, self-respect and self-love in different layers and on different levels.
My advice to those who feel like they have to mask their struggles – don’t. Take it from someone who always loved to be “hard” and monotone, and acted like nothing ever bothered me and then it ruined me behind closed doors. It’s okay to not be okay, it’s okay to vocalize it and it’s okay to show it. Never let anything or anybody ever dictate how you should feel.
Whether it’s depression, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, toxic relationship, or whatever what have you – you will overcome it and it’s not about where you’ve been, it’s about where you’re going and how you’re gonna get there.
Lastly, what were some tools you used to find the right therapist for you and what advice would you give to those seeking the right therapy option?
I called my healthcare provider, but that doesn’t always work for everyone. I suggest looking into apps and websites catered to your needs and your preference. Therapy For Black Girls is huge in the WOC community.
Also, don’t get discouraged if you don’t like your first therapist. I was fortunate to get it right on the first whack, but not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Keep at it and don’t stop trying until you’re comfortable – kind of like test driving a car. Also, it’s normal to want to switch therapists or grow out of your current therapist. It’s all a growing process.
To stay in contact with D’Shonda’s work within the mental health community, follow her Instagram for her panel updates. Keep protecting your health and well being. Also, for those who may need help or looking for answers while battling mental health, you can find resources here.