All around the world, individuals who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) face the highest rates of mental disorders. But the mental health disparities among racial/ethnic minorities make it difficult for them to access help.
Because of the failed system, many would rather not try to seek treatment, so they find temporary relief in illicit vices such as smoking, drinking, and drug abuse. This would usually lead them into criminal associations and engagements and eventually to prison… or death.
Also, there’s a stigma surrounding mental illness among people of color. Many of them see it as a sign of weakness, something to be ashamed of, or a disgrace to the family’s honor. This stigma also 1stands as a barrier to treatment.
Mental disorders among BIPOC are increasing at a disturbing rate, so there’s no better time than now for you to begin taking your mental health as a top priority. Every person of color deserves to maintain good mental health to stay on top of their health and live happily.
This blog discusses the importance of good mental health, factors that might affect your mental health, and how you, as a person of color, can manage and maintain good mental health.
What Is Mental Health?
Mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and can make a contribution to her or his community.
It is the way we respond to life – It is expressed in our thoughts, actions, and emotions. According to MentalHealth.org, good mental health is characterized by a person’s ability to:
- Feel, express, and manage a range of positive and negative emotions
- Form and maintain good relationships with others
- Cope with and manage change and uncertainty
If you allow your mental health to be adversely affected, chances are you might suffer from disorders such as:
- High stress levels
- Anxiety disorders including panic attacks and obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Mood disorders, including mild to acute depression, bipolar disorder, and extreme anger issues
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Personality disorders
- Eating or psychotic disorders
But if you nurture and maintain good mental health, you will be able to:
- Handle stress better,
- Make healthy decisions and improve the quality of your life, and
- Build stable social relationships.
Factors That Influence Mental Health
- Poor nutrition: The food you eat is converted into energy needed for your brain and nervous functions. It is transported via the blood, where it interacts with all your body tissues and organs. Your hormones also rely on the food you eat.
Your diet and nutrition can influence your cognitive functions and mood. A poor diet consisting of junk food and sugary beverages can cause hormonal imbalance, mood fluctuations, and depression.
- Traumatic or hurtful experiences: A death of a loved one or divorce can cause one to withdraw into a dark, cold world created only for self-pity and regrets. Traumatic experiences such as serving in the military, having a near-death experience, or killing innocent children can affect mental health.
Many have suffered trauma and mental disorders because of physical or sexual assault, domestic violence, childhood abuse or neglect, natural disasters, or even car accidents.
- Genetics (heredity): Psychotic disorders like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), clinical depression, or autism can be passed on from generations.
So, if there is a history of mental illness in your family, you are likely to develop one yourself. Why? Because the predisposition to that illness is encoded in the genes. With the right triggers (trauma, stress, or substance abuse), you can develop it.
- Socioeconomic status: Males are more vulnerable to develop a mental illness such as depression or anxiety due to socioeconomic reasons. Social disadvantages, including unemployment, debt, poverty, or a failed career (or business venture), can rob you of your happiness and lead you into a state of depression.
- Physical injury or infections: A severe injury to the head can affect the brain and cause mental disorders.
Also, a viral infection can spread through the blood to the brain and cause damage. This can lead to a decline in cognitive functions or a start of mental disorders.
- Alcohol or substance abuse: Prolonged exposure to drugs and/or alcohol can cause violent actions, anxiety, depression, hallucinations, or personality disorders.
- Drastic life changes, like staying in lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, can also influence mental health.
10 Tips To Boost Your Mental Health
You can manage and protect your mental health by following any of the 10 tips below:
- Enjoy up to 6-7 hours of sleep: Sleep deprivation can deprive you of your joy and sanity throughout the day. It can shoot up your stress levels and make you anxious or aggressive too. Clinical insomnia has been found to worsen bipolar depression and mania.
Make sure to get up to 8 hours of sleep away from distractions and people that constantly stress you. This will help improve your mental alertness and mood.
- Talk to someone about how you feel: Talking to a trusted friend or family about how you feel can go a long way in helping you seek treatment. You will feel safe and lighter after pouring out your worries to a listening ear. And, you can receive valuable advice from them or gain the courage to seek professional help.
- Eat a healthy diet: A plant-rich diet rich in gut-loving fiber will supply your body with the needed macronutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants it needs to fight oxidative stress and diseases. A healthy diet can also improve your mood.
Fatty fish, including salmon, herring, and mackerel, supply omega-3 fatty acids that help improve memory and brainpower.
- Find an exercise you love: Physical exercises help to relieve pain and stress naturally. And, it also helps to increase concentration and mental alertness. A study found it to be just as effective as drugs in relieving pain. But it has to be done consistently to see remarkable results.
You don’t have to purchase a gym membership. You can discover a physical activity you enjoy and work out at home. This way, it will be easier to stay consistent.
- Do something you love: Take a break to de-stress by engaging in activities you are good at. This will help you improve your self-image and liven your mood.
- Let go of your past, forgive yourself or others who have hurt you
- Sign up for volunteer work
- Seek professional help
- Get rid of your addictions
- Plan a getaway trip
Bonus: Adopt a pet
Mental health has a huge impact on the quality of life you lead. You need to protect it! By recognizing the factors that can trigger mental disorders, you can successfully avoid them and develop habits that encourage good mental health instead. You can do your part to help your community by raising mental health awareness and stopping the stigmatization of people who suffer from mental disorders.