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Arielle George, Jack Talks Speaker, gives her thoughts on black culture and mental health.
Arielle George, Jack Talks Speaker, gives her thoughts on black culture and mental health.

Arielle George, Jack Talks Speaker, gives her thoughts on black culture and mental health.

How do those two things intersect, and what does it mean to be a black mental health advocate in Canada?

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Black History Month & mental health: Arielle George

Though I am blessed and proud to have been raised in an Afro Caribbean household, I have always found that within the household and often in our community mental health isn’t acknowledged or given enough space to be talked about.

There’s definitely a lack of knowledge and understanding of mental health in the black community. I think the discussion surrounding mental health is often shunned or kept quiet for fear of what other members of the community or family would say, and unfortunately I’ve seen this cycle be repeated generation after generation. It has caused a continuous disparity in the amount of young black men and women seeking the help they may need when it comes to their mental health, and I’ve dealt with this mindset personally.

On the other hand I have also seen an uprise in young black men and women speaking out on behalf of themselves and others. I find, especially now that the topic of mental health is being talked about more publicly in other communities and in general, that the black community is also opening up and welcoming in this dialogue for youth and adults. I think that the people who often need the most help and often suffer the most are those who have never had the chance to acknowledge their suffering. We are getting better at recognizing that and building from it, and the black community is actively trying to make way for a better future, so that no one suffers in silence.

Over the years I have seen how Black History Month has evolved from commemorating black people and the amazing things we have done, to opening other communities eyes to the black community as a whole - not only shedding light on all our achievements but also on what is being done to actively help the community (with love and compassion!). This is a huge milestone.

For me being a black mental health advocate means that I am able to break the silence and stigma around mental health in my community, where members have often shunned mental health and illness. It allows me to be someone I wish I had growing up, someone who not only deals with a mental illness but is living proof that with the right help and by being open and honest about what you’re going through, you can and WILL surmount anything.