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.)
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
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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
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.