Mental Health Month Takes on New Meaning for Black America Amid COVID-19
Today marks the first day of Mental Health Awareness Month. And it’s fair to say that mental health and wellness is being taken more seriously amid COVID-19. As millions of Americans stay home and practice social distancing, there is a national conversation about the importance of self-care and mental wellness.
We recently spoke with Tonya Ladipo, founder and CEO of The Ladipo Group L.L.C., based in Philadelphia about the mental and physical impact the pandemic is having on people mentally. And during that conversation, she urged black people to not put their mental health on the back burner during these uncertain times.
Black Health Matters
Someone once said, “When white America catches a cold, black America catches the flu.” Others have even gone as far as to say pneumonia. A recent study by Dr. Cato Laurencin, CEO of the Connecticut Convergence Institute and Editor-In-Chief for the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities outlines the health disparities blacks are facing amid the coronavirus.
In addition to the virus, pre-existing social inequities are attributed to the decline in the overall health of black people.
To that point, Ladipo told BLACK ENTERPRISE that self-preservation is key. “We have been through so much that the need to make sure we are well is not optional.”
She also said, “They can’t take our minds. I feel as though we have to fight to protect it [our mental health] especially through COVID-19 because we’re on lockdown—and because it’s hard. We have to protect our mental health and wellness like a job right now. We have to make sure that when we come out of this—and we’re bruised and maybe having broken bones—that we’re not fully broken.”
Although black people and those living in underserved communities are being hit the hardest by COVID-19, there are a number of actionable steps that people can take to practice self-preservation during these times.
Here’s advice we’ve collected from mental health professionals.
Preserve Your Mental Wellness:
- Find a virtual therapist
- Unplug from your screen for a period of time daily.
- Turn off the news and/or mute your news push notification.
- Know your limits. — Be able to set limits and don’t overload yourself. We live in an overload culture and it’s very easy to do more and take on more. Sometimes we find our significance in the amount of things that we do and we find ourselves wearing ourselves out
- Take vacations or staycations. – Know how to step away and take a real vacation or staycation and do what reenergizes you and things that nourish your mind and body. If what you need is to be away from everyone, do that.
- Watch what you eat. – Don’t give your taste buds over what your body really needs.
- Maintain a regular cycle of 6 to 8 hours of sleep a night
- Exercise for 30 minutes.
- Journal about how you are feeling.
- Read books that take your mind to other places.
- Check-in with family members and friends.
- Take time for yourself.
- Minimize or manage the amount of stress in your life—recognize what things are stressful to you and have a way to minimize them.