Mental health stigma exists all around us, however, for many communities, particularly communities of color, mental health has been completely ignored for generations on the basis of survival and practicality. Read on to hear Peer Educator, Miriam’s thoughts on recognizing mental health as the first step to a healthier well-being.
RECOGNIZING MENTAL HEALTH, THAT’S THE FIRST STEP
by Miriam Medina
Approaching the end of spring quarter, reflecting on all that occurred this school year, I can conclude that for me (and I am sure for many other individuals) it was INTENSE. As it was all occurring- the politics, the student actions, the critical conversations- I had a kick of adrenaline that aided me throughout my involvement, allowing me to stay sane and grounded throughout. However, as things are now slowing down, I can’t help but feel extra tired, extra desanimada (unmotivated), and simply done. I keep telling myself that these feelings and attitudes are due to the fact that it is spring quarter.
I also reason, on a more analytical level, that these attitudes are due to me constantly finding how this system and institution does not have room for people like me: people of color, first generation college students, and students from low-income families. Returning to these feelings though, often, coming from where I come from, it’s hard to identify what exactly they are. Beyond that, when we do identify that we are in fact dealing with depression, anxiety, or stress, we don’t know how to cope and work with our feelings.
The other day I was listening to the song “Anxiety” by the Black Eyed Peas, and as I was listening, I decided to write a piece on it and want to share it with you all, in hopes of demonstrating how mental health is hard to confront in communities of color, and how it is even harder to break out of cycles of stigma:
“With nowhere to go got to shake this anxiety”
Shake this anxiety,
We were not taught how to shake, nor why we have to.
tu cabeza está enferma, dicen (It’s all in your head they say)
Yo digo que es humano sentir nervios en un mundo que tiene tanta crueldad por donde sea (I say it is normal to feel nervous in a world that can be so cruel)
Tenemos que aprender a respirar y a relajarnos (we need to learn to breathe and relax)
Trabajamos seguidamente y cada día (we work constantly and every day)
Nos han condicionado a matarnos, sin pensar en nosotros mismos, en nuestros cuerpos y en nuestras mentes. (They have conditioned us to kill ourselves, without giving thought to our own selves, to our bodies, and to our minds)
Nosotros hemos confundido la dedicación al trabajo con la realidad que somos esclavos, (We ourselves have confused our dedication to work with the reality that we are slaves)
Esclavos de un sístema que nos tiene en cadenas. (Slaves to a system that has us in chains)
This piece recognizes the workers that I know and that I have worked with. Workers that work 10-12 hours in the fields, and that come home with time limited time to eat, shower, and get as much sleep to get rest from a very long day, just to start with the same routine the next day. For many of these workers, my parents, my aunts and uncles, and siblings, mental health is not a priority, nor is there time to seek help when they are struggling. This piece is dedicated to them. Their work is so respectable, yet so undervalued systemically. This reality and many that are very similar, keeps many families, individuals, and communities struggling to cope and address mental health.