Black (Self) Love by Jasmine Respess

Mental health and self-care have been getting a lot of attention lately, but for black

people, it can be hard to define. How do we find resources, especially when black mental health

has been sidelined and ignored for so long? For black New School students, there are unique

challenges connected to attending a school where black students are 6% of the population and

62.5 % of faculty are white. We need to prioritize ourselves while navigating academia, which

has historically excluded us. (Stats provided by Forbes and The New School.)

Professional Help

Sometimes we need help from professionals, and that’s ok. The New School offers eight

sessions of counseling. This is best for getting through bad situations. When I went, I knew I

would need more consistent therapy, so I asked to be matched with a therapist in town. The

Health Center found a therapist who accepted my insurance. They also prioritized finding a

woman of color upon my request.

Another way to find black therapists is through websites such as The New York

Association for Black Therapists, Therapy for Black Girls, Therapy for Black Men, or

The Black Psychiatrists of Greater New York & Associates. You’ll need

to check that your insurance is accepted or that you can afford the payments if you’re not

covered. Many therapists offer sliding scale payments based on income. Still, there are many

qualified doctors to choose from. There are pictures and blurbs, so you could choose someone

who is qualified in concerns such as, LGBTQIA issues, mental-disorders or family problems.

(Note:

  • African Americans are 10% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic whites.

  • The death rate from suicide for African American men was more than four times greater than for African American women, in 2014.

  • Only 9.4 percent of African Americans received mental health care in 2014.

  • Less than 2 percent of American Psychological Association members are Black/African American.

    All stats derived from the Center for Disease Control and the US HHS Office of Minority

Health.)

Community

Get with your people. Being with others who can relate to you is important. This can be a

personal circle of friends or an organization at school. Join groups on campus where you can be

yourself and explore your interests. Hang out in the Students of Color lounge. Attend Black Student Union meetings. While it can be tiring to fight injustice, doing it with your friends, and seeing results can

be energizing. Obsidian is a good place to commune with fellow black designers. Get feedback

on pieces from people who can better understand a black point of view. There are many groups

to join at The New School. They span anywhere from dance collectives to Sex-E collective. A complete list

can be found here.

City Spaces

There are also a number of spaces centering people of color. Ethels Club is a forthcoming

POC working space that will open this summer. Their website describes Ethels Club as “a brick

and mortar answer created to grow a community that has traditionally been overlooked and

isolated from public spaces.”

The Gentlemen’s Factory works on a similar premise but focuses on men of color. They

emphasize the need for camaraderie amongst leaders, artist, entrepreneurs, activists and

professionals of color. “We don’t grow in isolation, we grow in community,” is part of their vision statement.

Another space is Chroma Studio in the Lower East Side, which was started by New

School alumni Ladin Awad and Sienna Fekete with June Canedo. The Chroma studio works with

other collectives to hold events about working women, drug and alcohol addiction and mental

health. “We were having a candid transparent conversation of the struggles that we go through as

a collective,” Ms. Fekete told the New York Times. “There is a need for a physical space.”

Listen

Pretty much everyone has a podcast they tune into regularly. While murder mystery,

politics and gossip are all good topics, there are a few people working on series about mental

health and people of color. Hats Off Podcast is hosted by two clinical social workers, Courtney

and Earl, who focus on changing the stigma around mental illness. Another podcast is Latinx

Therapy. The goal of this podcast is to increase cultural competency around mental health in the

Latinx community, while sharing ways to support ourselves, or people in our lives, that struggle

with mental illness. The Mindful Muslim is additional podcast that discusses mental health,

psychology and Islam. The podcast covers topics such as domestic violence, marriage and

identity.

Words

As a MFA in creative writing, I have to mention books. For me, reading about black

experience makes me feel less alone. Recently I have been reading Jesmyn Ward’s fiction,

Salvage the Bones, Jericho Brown’s new book of poetry, The Tradition, and Mitchell Jackson’s

non-fiction, Survival Math. Of course, we can always turn to the legends, Lorde, Baldwin,

Clifton and all the ancestors. Writing is also a great way to look inward, even if it is only for

yourself.

Eating

Nothing wrong with a little comfort food. When I am down I like to go get soul food at

Mable’s Smoke House, roti at Ali’s, Dominican food at Loma’s Coffee shop, or Caribbean food at Gloria’s Caribbean Cuisine. Still, there is not always enough money to go out, so hit up your favorite auntie for that rice and peas recipe and have a pot luck with your pals.

There are many ways to heal. Everyone’s is different but make time for yourself and find your best mental health practices.