“Believe Black youth when we open up about their mental health, and accept us for who we are.” – Stephanie Younger
By Stephanie Younger •
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 type 4 hair on Black girls is acceptable. In the Black community, being violent against Black women and girls, and not believing them when they say they’ve been abused 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 have a diagnosis and to self-harm, but are also there to deliberately trigger us more than we already are, gaslight, disparage, disown and criminalize us. Opening up about our past struggles and identifying a problem in the way our family members address mental illness results in being rejected and shunned. Just to name a few comments I’ve received:
“Fix your meds.”
“You’re an insane child.”
“I want nothing to do with you.”
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 in my generation, including me were given “the talk” on how to handle being approached and racially profiled by the police. But Black youth, especially those who are mentally ill, who are a danger to themselves, but not others, are not safe from having the police called on them, even by our own families.
We are gaslighted, blamed for their own unfair treatment, and repeatedly told that the person who made the conscious decision to call the police, “did the right thing,” that “it comes from a place of love” and that “if you’re going to act like a criminal, you’re going to get treated like one” — and that needs to change. Believe Black youth when we open up about their mental health, and accept us for who we are.
Stephanie Younger is a 17-year-old student, organizer and writer who advocates for womanism, and the abolition of youth prisons.