By Kweku Akyirefi Amoasi
When the conversation of Mental Health arises, the masses leave the conversation. We have been conditioned to believe that mental health is divorced from physical health. We have been conditioned to believe that mental health is only dealing with illnesses, such as anxiety, depression, and trauma. The reality is that the real conversation of mental health is deeply embedded in the very fabric of African and African American culture.
When we talk about mental health, we just use other terms. For example, we didn’t go to the hospital or the clinic, we went to The Church, The Village, The Salon/Barber or The Club. We did not use titles for our helpers such as therapist or counselor, we used titles such as Pastor, Dr. Mom, Friend, and Coach. In essence, we were not resisting mental health, we were resisting mental health from a society and occupation that used the tool of mental health as another weapon to marginalize and penalize us. As a result of this uneasy feeling there is a visceral response that we feel inside, that warns us something is not correct or safe, even if we cannot articulate the reasons for our level of un-comfortability.
Before anyone begins to discount this article as another conspiracy where we blame the White man and not take accountability, let me provide receipts from yesteryear and yesterday to validate the above claims. In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to the national convention for the American Psychological Association (APA) where he implored the behavioral scientists of this day to be the vanguard for the nation to help turn away from the ugly illness of racism and help usher in the age of equality for all citizens. They did not listen to the King. As a result, the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi) was founded in 1968 to address the needs of our people that APA refused to put at the forefront of their agenda.
Finally, in October of 2021, APA issued an apology to all people of color for their role in not challenging racism and also admitted they were complicit in the contribution to various social inequities. They further stated, the organization should have apologized a long time ago. ABPsi criticized the apology for lacking true depth and concrete actionable items to truly repair the harm created.
Now, APA has made more strides toward inclusivity; in fact, the current President Dr. Thema Bryant is a Black woman. However, as Malcolm X once stated, “just because the enemy has removed the knife blade from 9 inches to 6 inches, we cannot call that progress.” Malcolm also stated, “it is hard to heal when you are in the same place that made you ill.” As beautiful as America can be on one side of the coin, is as ugly as she can be on the other side for those she was not created to serve.
Family, the point is if we really want to heal ourselves, as a collective, we must re-examine everything we once thought we knew. We must re-evaluate our values and ethics. We must re-visit our ancestral DNA and ways to find our way out of this burning building we currently reside in beloved. Neely Fuller Jr. stated, “if you don’t understand racism (white supremacy) everything that you do understand will only confuse you.”
We are still screaming Black Lives Matter in 2023. We are still exclaiming that WE cannot Breathe. We are still saying Hands Up Don’t Shoot, even though we recognize our beautiful melanin skin tone is the weapon we wear that renders us unable to be unarmed. The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.
Sadly, our material success (e.g., worldly titles, fancy vehicles, and healthy bank accounts), does not render us exempt from the emotional pain and potential physical abuse from authority figures. In fact, our desire to delve into a conspicuous consumption society is a symptom that we have assimilated too much into a broken society that perpetuates mental illness. If Black Mental Health Matters, we must be proactive in our measures to create a healthy village for ALL our people… by any means necessary!
This Korner is dedicated to finding solutions to help us now and to make it better for our posterity. Kweku Akyirefi Amoasi is the host of Nyumba Upendo (House of Love) radio show on WNOV 860am/106.5FM and it airs every Wednesday from 11am-12pm.