Minority Mental Health Month exists to bring attention to the fact that Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) experience higher rates of mental distress while also facing more barriers to receiving mental health care. As shared in a previous blog post, the cause of this injustice is systemic racism.
In his new memoir, local author Reggie Ford shares his story growing up as a Black man in Nashville, through the lens of mental health and social justice. Ford took time to sit down with us and discuss his book, which is available for check out at the library.
What motivated you to share your story of racial trauma and healing?
I started journaling a few years ago during a stressful time of my grandma’s diagnosis with terminal brain cancer. I turned to my journal every night to vent what happened during the day. I was witnessing so much family dysfunction. I began realizing that this behavior isn’t normal and that it comes from what I believe to be intergenerational trauma.
I thought I was done with the book at the end of 2019 and then 2020 happened. I went back to add some chapters to tie in the racial injustice exposed by COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter and its connection to mental health. I started to see the outcry of the world, and of Black people in particular, and realized that racial trauma was part of my story too. I had normalized the effects of racism on my family, because it’s so prevalent and pervasive. My book follows a path of awakening from the normalization of racism and poor mental health, to the realization that things could be different, and finally to liberation to a place of peace.
There continues to be silence and stigma around mental health, especially for Black men. What helped you overcome stigma and seek help anyway?
It took a full-blown panic attack that had me lying on the floor, after a month of not sleeping, to finally admit I was depressed and that I needed professional help. None of my typical outlets for coping were working anymore. I realized that if I did not address my mental health, then I could not be productive in any other part of my life.
The mentality of “Black don’t crack” has helped us persist through harsh realities, but it prevents us from being vulnerable and getting the care and help we deserve. I am at a place in life where treating my mental health feels stronger and more courageous than pretending like there isn’t an issue. My hope is that everyone sees the strength in being vulnerable because I believe it leads to healing.
You have said “self-care is sacred, not selfish.” What are some of your favorite self-care activities?
I have been practicing yoga for a little over 5 years and I recently became a certified instructor. Yoga helped to heal many of my chronic injuries from playing sports, and it also became a spiritual part of my life. I love the mind/body connection of yoga. There is a lot of research that shows the healing benefits of yoga for trauma survivors.
I also meditate daily to check in with myself and the environment around me. I like writing songs and short stories, and staying creative. Being vulnerable and talking about my feelings is self-care for me now. I don’t bottle things up anymore.
To learn more about the topics discussed in Reggie's book, check out his favorites below. He also includes a more comprehensive list in the back of his book.