When it comes to families of color, talking about mental health is basically taboo.
It’s hard to get two phrases out about it before noticing your parents reactions. Sometimes it’s the eye roll, other times it’s the “okay we get it let’s move on” motion of the hands. Either way, it’s very clear the conversation will lead nowhere.
“Stop. Other people have it way worse.”
As children of color, we’re used to hearing the phrase, “Stop. There’s other people who have it way worse,” whenever we talk about things even close to mental health.
This might be the norm for us, but there’s a couple major issues with that.
For one, we feel like our feelings and problems don’t matter. We’re forced to invalidate our emotions and look at a “bigger picture.”
I get it. Our parents had to work their ass off to get to the place they are. Most of them dealt with racism, sexim, and even trauma within their own life. But they've been taught to suppress that shit and ignore their pain. To them, our struggles don't compare, which is why this is always the comeback.
If our struggles don’t compare to theirs, we have nothing to complain about. Now on top of whatever the hell we’re going through, I have to feel worse by not taking the kids in poverty into consideration. The kids who don’t have a mom and dad. The kids who don’t have any money to get clothes, food or shelter. The ones who are denied their basic needs.
We have to look at the bigger picture and devalue all the shit we feel. But all that does is cause more anger and frustration. People may have it worse, but that in no way negates the pain we’ve gone through.
“You’re so young what do you have to be upset about”
Another response parents of color give to their kids. They pull the agist card.
Age has no restraint on mental health. We see the new trend on social media where parents are pampering their children. Parents post their young child in the bathtub with a face mask on, with the candle on and their favorite book. They understand the importance of self care, preserving their child’s mental health. I love seeing that shit on my timeline.
Parents are so cute caring about their kids at a young age, but where’s that same energy when we get older?
Mind you I grew up in a place where other people didn’t look like me and it took a toll on my mental health. I felt like an outcast. Like I didn't belong. I can promise you, that is definitely something kids are hurt by. Whether it’s matters of identity, bullying, or insecurities, just because we’re young, doesn’t mean we don’t have different things to be upset about. That’s why that response is incredibly inconsiderate/outlandish.
I get it, parents at that age were dealing with leaving their home countries, learning new languages, and a bunch of other hard shit that we’re not. But whether or not we’re dealing with “real life” issues, these problems are still affecting us.
“Have you ever thought about going to therapy?”
The feelings we feel as children of color are unlike anything else. We have to deal with regular day to day shit on top of the issues that come with not being white. When we’re talking about these issues, it’s easy for people to offhandedly suggest therapy as an option.
But here’s the tea, when therapy is even HINTED at, we get, “Therapy’s for white people.” And if therapy is being pursued, it’s always, “Shhh. Don’t tell anyone you’re going to therapy.”
We have to keep it hush, hush because apparently it’s a weakness to talk about feelings.
Don’t get me wrong, therapy is a great thing. It’s a place to talk about what you’re going through and heal from it. But, what they don’t tell you, is that therapy isn’t diversified.
It’s hard as hell to find therapists of color. The reason that’s so important is because why imma spill my guts to someone who can’t even 1) relate and 2) understand.
Yes, a white therapist can empathize. But that’s not the same. We need to be heard and sometimes we don’t want to give them a whole run down on how our households work, before we get to our trauma. If a therapist can’t do that for us, then why are we going?
The feelings we feel from the responses we receive take a toll on children of color. It’s a burden that we’re learning to dismiss, and that’s not what mental health should feel like.
We should care about what we go through. We need to. If we don’t talk about the things in our head, we’ll never be able to survive this hard ass world.
“We’re all going through it, but we’re all in this together.”
You might think that you have no outlet but I'm here to tell you that we do.
Turn to your friends of color, aka people who can understand your struggle. It’s nice to talk to someone you don’t have to explain your family dynamic to, especially when they get where you’re coming from first hand. And if you don’t have friends of color, you can turn to people who are woke enough to understand. The goal is for you to do what you can to create a safe space for yourself, wherever that comes from is up to you.
If the closest people to you (parents) don’t want to listen, I swear your friends will.
Never forget that the younger generation coming up. We’re talking about some deep shit and this topic is one of them. Don’t neglect the similarities we all have. We got to remember that we, children of color, aren’t alone.
If you are ever in need of mental health, the following are free 24/7 services you can use:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)
The Trevor Project for the LGBTQ+ population and youth (1-866-488-7386)
Or The National Emergency number (911), for immediate emergencies.