Healing in the Midst of Trauma

@ASoulAFire @JaniceOCG @JaceyHeldrich The struggle to keep and recover one’s sanity is seen in Gilead and beyond.  Here @YoloAkili speaks w/@gabehoward29 of @PsychCentral on mental health challenges in the Black community.  Join Thursdays, 8 pm ET, from 1/13/22, “If America Fails?:  The Coming Tyranny.”

“BEAM realized that we could not, in good confidence, teach black folks about mental health without addressing the legacy of harm inflicted on black bodies historically through psychiatry and psychology. We also could not teach mental health without helping our communities expand and create models of care beyond traditional mental health systems.” 

— Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective

Just imagine June Osborne trying to access mental health services in the midst of her experience inside Gilead.  Even before the new regime had fully manifested, talking to professionals (like doctors, abortion counselors and teachers) was a sure way to get labeled as problematic in some way.  On the other hand, once inside the safe space of Canada, U.S. refugees are immediately treated to a host of medical and counseling services designed to help them recover and heal from the damage to their physical and mental health inflicted by Gilead.  Moira, a refugee herself, actually runs a support group for women like herself.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to heal in the midst of ongoing trauma.  This is the challenge Black people face when focused on recovering our mental health.  The hits – they just keep coming.  Time and safe spaces are luxuries many of us cannot afford.  Still, we try.

In the podcast and transcript linked here, host Gabe Howard interviews Yolo Akili Robinson, executive director of the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective, on the systemic issues around mental health and what “healing justice” looks like in the Black community.  — LMO

“…to talk about approaching the concept of mental health in black communities, particularly from the perspective that BEAM takes, we use a framework we call healing justice. Healing justice, essentially believes that in order for our communities to heal, we have to consider the historical, ancestral, spiritual, emotional context and political context of how our traumas happened, but also how healing can happen. So with that being said, I think it’s important when we talk about black mental health to begin to understand the roots of what we now know as mental health, or western mental health. We have to take a little bit of a time warp and go back and look at the roots of how our current kind of understanding of mental health, which is used to be called mental hygiene, is really informed by this kind of really deep seated pathology, often rooted in the pathology that was more about helping people produce and that people who were not efficient producers were the folks who were labeled as mentally ill and how that particular legacy is also deeply connected to racism and sexism, particularly for black folks in this country who were subject to a variety of different harms under the context of the medical industrial complex. But often the course and the history of psychology and Western mental health, we’re considered not capable of having mental illness because mental illness is considered to be something that was a consequence of a higher consciousness or cognitive function, right? So Africans, people of African descent, our brains were thought to be smaller. I share those pieces because it’s really important to hold racism and ableism in the history of mental health because it gives us the context as to why our communities now are so hesitant and reticent around the framework….

“Healing justice is a framework that was really created by Cara Page and the Kindred Healing Justice Collective. So this framework comes out of the work of mostly black, Latino, Asian, disabled, queer and trans folks who are really trying to move beyond the Western model that often suggested pick one person of their community and you take them to therapy. And somehow that alone is going to be enough for the transformation of their mental health. In order for our communities to be well, we have to transform the systems that we have to interrogate the legacy of untreated trauma for our folks. We have to change systems of incarceration, the prison industrial complex, systems of low wages, lack of access to care. We have to look at the entire model and really of the country and see that life change. And that is a mental health intervention. That there has to be community and systemic level healing for a new world to be possible. Right? It really turns, or challenges, a lot of concepts that are kind of inherent in some of the Western medicine kind of approaches. They really tend to like divorce or minimize racism, misogyny or transphobia as a really powerful and omnipotent structural and psychological forces they are…

“I think for black people, we trace our first cultivation of what we call peer support to really the time we landed here during our enslavement. And why I do that is because I think we have yet to interrogate the dimension of psychological and emotional support that had to be necessary for the black folks, African folks who landed here to discern what was going on to support themselves and the people they were with to survive this desolate and destructive and violent landscape that they entered into under American enslavement. What does it mean for crying and support and not speaking the language? What did it mean for emotional support? And so I trace our legacy of peer support really starts there because we had to build up communities of care and villages of care to get through that.”  — Yolo Akili Robinson

More of this thoughtful dialogue is found at the link below.

Episode Notes:

“According to Prentis Hemphill, ‘Healing justice is active intervention in which we transform the lived experience of Blackness in our world.’ But it’s important to understand what those words mean.

“Today’s guest, Yolo Akili Robinson, the executive director of BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective), explains how his organization utilizes healing justice to engage with marginalized communities. Yolo explains why he advocates for discussions surrounding mental health and mental illness in the Black community to include how racism, sexism, and other biases are deeply intertwined with psychology and psychiatry…

“Yolo Akili Robinson is an award-winning writer, healing justice worker, yogi, and the founder and executive director of BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective). Yolo has worked primarily in three areas: Batterers intervention/family counseling with Black men and boys, HIV/AIDS, and healing justice/wellness. In 2018, Yolo was awarded the prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ‘Health Equity Award’ for his work. He was also featured at the 2020 BET Awards as an ‘Empowerful Spotlight,’ highlighting his work facilitating the vision of BEAM. His writings and work have appeared on Shondaland, GQ, Women’s Health, USA Today, Vice, BET, Huffington Post, Cassius, Ebony, Everyday Feminisms, and more. He’s the author of the social justice themed affirmation book, Dear Universe: Letters of Affirmation & Empowerment for All of Us and a contributor to Tarana Burke and Dr. Brené Brown’s anthology on Black vulnerability and shame resilience, You are Your Best Thing. You can find Yolo on Twitter @YoloAkili…

“Inside Mental Health Podcast Host…Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations, available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author…To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.”  — The Psych Central Podcast

LISTEN TO or READ | Marginalized Communities and the Healing Justice Model | Inside Mental Health Podcast | The Psych Central Podcast | 8/19/2021

Published by Loga Michelle Odom @Odomanian

Founder/Host, Reading Changes Lives; Former Senior Producer, OUR COMMON GROUND Media / TruthWorks Network / If America Fails?: The Coming Tyranny

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