May Is Mental Health Awareness Month. You Hanging in There?

Illustration for article titled May Is Mental Health Awareness Month. You Hanging in There?
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How you doin’, fam?

Obviously, as of late, we’ve been talking a lot about health here at The Root. As the world—and the United States, in particular—faces an unprecedented health crisis in the outbreak of COVID-19, our concerns have largely been focused upon the physical aspects of the coronavirus; how to avoid it, combat it, and survive not only the illness itself but the ensuing economic and political repercussions. And even as it’s become terrifyingly clear that our communities are most vulnerable in this pandemic, there is one health risk that has gone largely overlooked: How will this outbreak compound the existing collective trauma of being black in America?

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We already know that post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is a real thing that may literally alter the DNA of subsequent generations; some studies estimate a 30 to 70 percent chance of heritability (h/t National Institutes of Health). If this is true, how might any residual trauma from slavery, Jim Crow and other institutional forms of racism, police brutality, voter suppression, black maternal mortality, everyday microaggressions and more be exacerbated by the universal panic of our present moment—and the resulting isolation, economic instability and incessant concern so many of us are currently feeling?

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Believe it or not, we talk a lot about mental health at The Root, even more so behind the scenes than on the page. Within our surrogate family of writers and editors, there’s a fair amount of transparency about issues and challenges each of us may be facing in any given moment, whether diagnoses of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder or our very human responses to more common life events like death, failed relationships or basic burnout. While we’re constantly trying to find new ways to support ourselves and each other, we generally save whatever revelations occur for Mental Health Awareness Month each May.

But this May, it’s safe to say it hits different.

Researchers around the world are already recognizing what they’re calling an “echo pandemic” as the psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic begin to reveal themselves, as noted in a recent article by MindBodyGreen:

More and more research is emerging on the implications this pandemic has already had on mental health around the world. Essential workers, like health care professionals on the front lines, are experiencing anxiety, depression, and insomnia. For those practicing social distancing and isolating in their homes, research shows many have experienced a loss of motivation, meaning, or self-worth. In general, roughly 40% of American adults are more concerned with their mental health than their physical health right now, with 68% saying they feel like everything is out of their control right now.

It’s more than a feeling. It’s our current reality as we try to get a grasp on this “new normal”; an upending of society affecting literally every component of our lives: from how we buy basic necessities, to how we interact with friends and family, to how we receive medical treatment, to how we earn a living.

“We all have different fears. It’s a grave unknown, and our nervous systems process that differently. Sometimes we don’t feel it at all and then it hits us like a ton of bricks,” psychotherapist Ken Page tells MindBodyGreen. “So this is really a time to be very sensitive to how the nervous system processes this kind of chronic stress and trauma.”

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With many of us continuing to shelter-in-place and adjust to adaptive measures as we enter Mental Health Awareness Month, The Root family will be opening up to you about how we’re coping with the crisis (including how it’s compounding existent issues) and sharing any and all strategies we can find to help you cope, as well. Yes, we know the effects of the coronavirus will be felt long after the month ends—and that some aspects of life will never be the same again. But we want you to know that whatever you’re feeling right now, you’re not alone.

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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DISCUSSION

I’m holding on, but I kinda *have* to. My daughter is showing signs of anxiety creeping in (worrying about random things for hours on end, getting despondent, etc.). Ain’t gonna help if I’m in that shit with her (though I help her work through it).

But, honestly, the weird sentiment of “Patriotism = total selfishness” is...::sigh::...yeah. Never encountered a population so addicted to willful ignorance that wasn’t a totalitarian state.

Hang in there!