May is Mental Health Month. I don’t know the origin of this designation but I’m sure it had well-meaning people involved. For Black folks living in this country, every day needs to be a day of awareness about how we transcend our intergenerational trauma and thrive as sane and healthy human beings. Every day we must check ourselves, not just one month out of the year.

Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It determines how we handle stress, how we relate to others, and how we make decisions. Your mental state can affect how the day will go and ultimately, what kind of life you will have.

Our overall health does not develop in a vacuum. Racial capitalism creates inhuman and unhealthy conditions that drive us to the brink. It has systematically destroyed our family structures that once protected and supported our well-being. Laws, policies and practices are designed to control and inhibit our progress as both humans and citizens. Black people are bombarded with anti-Black messages from birth that daily seep through our subconsciousness over time - until we actually believe that we are the unworthy ones, unfit for civilized society. The truth is, we are worthy and U.S. society is far from being civilized.

When I look around my community, the results of the toll of living in America is evident. We wear our unhealthiness on the outside and that which cannot readily be seen, comes out in our behaviors. We live in environmentally compromised neighborhoods which subjects us to chemicals and other harmful agents that impact our quality of life. Poverty and violence grip our lives.

This is a nation of overweight, anxious, sleep-deprived people. For Black folks, the outcomes are consequential. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly half of Black folks are obese. For my sisters, the statistics are grimmer. Four out of five us are categorized as overweight or obese, the highest rate of any other grouping. This is not just a matter of body image; this is a critical factor in the quality of life and our very life expectancy.

 The death rate for African Americans is higher than whites for heart diseases, stroke, cancer, asthma, pneumonia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and of course, homicide. This makes us a target for the pharmaceutical vampires who keep us medicated. The ways in which we self-medicate to deal with our circumstances are destructive to ourselves and our community. Structural racism perpetuates disparities that make it easy to predict our quality of life and how and when we die.

All the outward signs are clear. The statistics are compelling. And yet for many in the Black community, it can be incredibly challenging to discuss the topic of our overall health, especially mental health. This fear could prevent people from seeking mental health care when they really need it. Only one in three African Americans who need mental health services receives it.

Even if we break the silence to face our psychological reality and decide we need professional help, there are objective barriers. In 2024, sadly, there is still the stigma of being labeled “crazy.” There is a righteous distrust of the health care system. The demand for culturally competent providers outstrips the current supply. The cost of paying for mental health services is often prohibitive.

Black people of African descent must call in the wisdom of our ancestors. Black healers are adapting ancestral modes of healing our community, but we need to take it to scale. There are simply not enough mental health professionals to help us deal with what we are going through in 2024.

Black people must understand that our mental, spiritual and physical health are inseparable. Our approach to health must be comprehensive and holistic. It cannot be left to those who either monetize or weaponize our health. Healing ourselves, our families and our communities must be integrated, intentional and simultaneous. Black folks must be aware of our mind, body and spirit every single day. We will come to realize that being of sound mind and body in this country is a revolutionary act.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

member and Columnist, Jamala Rogers,

founder and Chair Emeritus of the

Organization for Black Struggle in St.

Louis. She is an organizer, trainer and

speaker. She is the author of The Best of

the Way I See It – A Chronicle of

Struggle. Other writings by Ms. Rogers

can be found on her blog

jamalarogers.com. Contact Ms. Rogers

and BC.