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Mental Wellness Strengthened Through Community Resilience

By Rev. Dr. Joy Johnson, Lead Servant – Higher Hope Christian Church

While Black History Month has come to a close, it’s important to recognize and understand the experiences of our Black and African American friends, family and community members throughout the year. With the onslaught of news and other forms of media depicting injustice and graphic violence toward Black and African American people, it’s easy to begin to feel discouraged. It’s easy to feel that things will not change – this can take a toll on one’s mental wellbeing. That’s why it is imperative that WE depend on each other to collectively bear the brunt of the continuing and inherited trauma we’re experiencing. Once despair creeps in, it becomes easier to isolate from those who can offer support, strength, healing, and peace.

As someone who grew up in the Black church, parishioners were encouraged to have a “knowable spirit,” which means being open to connecting, and in fellowship, with others. We can all cultivate a more knowable spirit in ourselves by checking on each other in any way we can. We can listen to each other, take the time to see one another and understand each other’s struggles and experiences.

Traditions and rituals are integral to Black culture, many of which are represented among Sacramento’s local Black and African American community. The overly individualized contemporary culture pressures the Black culture today into more individualism – even Sacramento’s Black neighborhoods are sparse and distant from each other – and it’s often easier to keep to ourselves or within our own families. How can we find peace for our community when we are so disconnected from each other?

Isolation is the last thing we should do; we need to be encouraging folks to stay connected during these times.  

Culture, resilience, and mental well-being has been the Black community’s greatest legacy  – if we start a conversation, we can build and spread hope today. Let’s return to tried and true community-building techniques, and start exploring new ones:

  • Find your faith and/or spiritual community. If religion is not your thing, that’s okay! Spiritual and emotional fulfillment can be found in family, friends, faith, therapy, or even community healing spaces like the Safe Black Space, a trauma-informed, culturally competent and open-to-all forum I started along with  Dr. Kristee Haggins and Reverend Kevin Kitrell Ross.
  • Start a conversation with someone who might need support, or who can support you through your mental health journey. No one should struggle alone – hope is out there. Try one of these conversation starters from the “Mental Illness: It’s not always what you think” project and reach out to a friend about their mental health.
  • Attend or host community events for shared expression of Black Joy, like roller skating meet ups, art and spoken word shows, or Afro-diasporic dance and nightlife events.
  • Help each other out materially by trading and bartering skills and goods. Not worrying about money takes a huge load off one’s emotional health, and exchanging a grocery run for a braid-down with their neighbor is what our parents and grandparents used to do to help each other get by!
  • Advocate for a Black Health Center in Sacramento County. Sacramento is home to SNAHC and La Familia, as well as other demographic-specific health and resource centers that provide needed care for our Native American, Latino and other diverse community members. Providing a similar central location for Sacramento’s Black community is something that would not only improve our healthcare outcomes but could become a community center for the local African American community to continue to build off of and help our community thrive. 

No matter how you go about it, find your community and lean on one another. Encourage each other; support each other; and – most importantly — uplift each other in the face of trials and tribulations that try to snuff out our light and well-being.