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Black Perspectives in Mental Health: Allyship & Advocacy

On Sunday, March 6, we had a Community Call lead by Maya McClendon, the founder and CEO of the app @timeout.io. The Timeout and Resilience Rally teams talked Black perspectives in mental health and how to practice allyship and advocacy. In honour of Black Mental Health Awareness Week and the 51 other weeks a year we will recognize Black mental health perspectives, we’ve created a bank of resources with specific examples of how to help yourself and the Black community.


Maya and members of the Timeout team joined Resilience Rally for a discussion about black mental health awareness. We learned from each other about how to advocate for the black community and actively practice anti-racism.


Maya addressed the concept of a "strong black woman". Black women are perceived as being incredibly strong because of how well they handle adversity and discrimination. This societal pressure prevents them from having space to open up when they are struggling mentally.


We asked Maya how she balances her own mental health while helping others.

  • she said that she hand-selects people who want to progress and heal with her.

  • she noted the importance of taking breaks for yourself and communicating boundaries.


We discussed the concept of internalized racism and how anxiety can be heightened when you are the only one of a certain race in a situation. Maya gave us a few examples:

  • It can take twice as much energy to get through a situation where no one else looks the way you do.

  • You are constantly asking yourself, "what am I supposed to be doing?", "how am I being perceived?", and "am I making someone uncomfortable?".


Maya was kind enough to explain how she struggled to find the words of what she was dealing with when she did reach out for help.

  • As a "strong black woman" she was never supposed to need this help

  • She has always been taught to say "I'm fine"

  • It was difficult to break down identity barriers to articulate what was wrong.

  • There were so many risk factors that she could not keep up with

  • Faced with health care providers dismissing her problems.


Allyship

As allies, we must educate ourselves about anti-racism. We must understand the choices we make that uphold the systemic issues we see. We cannot rely on the black community to explain their experience because it is too heavy a burden.


There is immense power in education. Before going to someone you know who is black, google "how to be anti-racist", read about systemic racism and submerge yourself in the experience of black people. Seek out finding black joy and black beauty because it is vastly under-represented.


Here are a few ways to educate yourself:

  • The documentary "13th" on Netflix is a great starting point

  • Read books from Civil Rights activists

  • Follow Black creators

  • Read "How to be Anti-Racist, "White Fragility", "Me and White Supremacy", and books by James Baldwin

  • Watch the Vice specials on Black Joy

When you are talking about race, remember to ask yourself:

  • Am I listening?

  • Am I responding from a place of white fragility?

  • Am I being defensive?






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