“Believe Black youth when we open up about our mental health, and accept us for who we are.”
Content warning: Mentions of self-harm •
In the Black community, talking down to, speaking poorly of, publicly humiliating and criminalizing Black youth as a whole is acceptable. In the Black community, body shaming, and devaluing dark skin and degrading Black girls with Type 4 natural hair is acceptable. In the Black community, violence against Black women and girls, and not believing them when they say they speak up about the violence they’ve experienced is acceptable. But ironically, in the Black community, it is unacceptable for Black people to be LGBTQ+, for Black people to be disabled and for Black people to be mentally ill.
Very few people are there for Black youth at the lowest point of our lives, except for family members who are there to not only tell us we are “too young” to struggle with our mental health, and also there to deliberately trigger us more than we already are, gaslight, disparage, disown and criminalize us. Opening up about our struggles and identify a problem in the way our family members address mental illness results in being rejected and shunned. There are also family members who are there to blame us for our own struggles — struggles that stem from internalized racism and self-hatred — and to overpolice us. During the time Black Lives Matter went viral, many Black youth, like myself, were instructed how to handle being approached and racially profiled by the police, but we are not safe from having the police called on us by our loved ones.
We are gaslighted, blamed for our own marginalization, and repeatedly told by mental health professionals who think calling the police is the right thing, and that needs to change. Believe Black youth when we open up about our mental health, and accept us for who we are.