Mental Health Clarity

Getting to know more about Mental Health.

In our communities today, we have come to know mental health and mental illness as the same thing. When you talk about mental health, the first thing that comes to mind is illnesses such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar. We have been conditioned to understand mental health in very limited ways. One dangerous assumption is that when you do not manifest any extreme conditions you are okay. The truth is more often than not, we are unaware of these conditions in our lives, particularly in the Black communities. This, fuelled by the many misconceptions, has further perpetuated the stigma on mental health issues.


To change the narrative, we continue to educate each other about mental health. This is how we challenge the stigma and become Future Black Females that are aware of their emotional, psychological, and social well-being.


Mental Health and Mental Illness are not the same thing. Mental health is a term that encompasses the impact of our life experiences; the status of our emotional well-being; how we feel about ourselves; as well as how we relate with others emotionally and socially. It also includes our psychological well-being and the practices that help us to maintain good wellbeing. Some of these practices we have discussed in the previous post on Good Mental Health.


Poor mental health is what leads to mental illnesses. When we are not emotionally and psychologically well over a specified period of time, we may develop mental illnesses. Factors leading to mental illness include, the inability to cope with pressures and stressors thereby becoming overwhelmed. Overtime, if no corrective measures are taken, the constant or ongoing state of stress and emotional instability develops into a mental illness. Other factors that can lead to mental illness include a continued lack of self-care and low self-esteem. Often people develop mental illnesses due to exposure to domestic violence; abuse; constant fear and loneliness. Also, poverty and an inability to access and maintain resources for basic needs such as shelter, clothing, healthy diet, social support and many other necessities can result in mental illness. We must understand that mental illness is like physical illness. People don't develop mental illnesses because they deserve it or are weak. Often the triggers of mental illness are beyond individual control.


Maintaining good mental health supported by these three important aspects;


1. Perception


How we perceive ourselves and our environments provides us with a guiding factor for good mental health. A healthy perception of yourself is when you believe the good and positive things about yourself. This also extends to a healthy perception of your environment as well as the things that happen around you. For example, when you believe that you can be a good partner and or friend, you also understand that in times of conflict you are not always to blame. This makes for a healthy environment in which you can amicably find solutions. It also means that you get to understand your role in relationships without overburdening yourself.


2. Self-Expression

There are things that we wish to say but cannot say. There are things that must be said but are hard to say. Our thoughts, feelings, and opinions guide us in how we relate to our environments and ourselves. It is, however, important to be able to openly express them such that we may build mutually beneficial relationships. Most importantly, understanding that your feelings and opinions are valid is essential for your mental health. This is a part of maintaining your emotional well-being. Even when we feel negative, expressing those feelings helps to address the negativity. Comparatively, this is better than bottling them up as it results in internalized hurt which may pose a barrier for self-expression.


3. Self-worth


Self-worth is recognizing that “I am greater than all things.” All things being what we find as our inadequacies, our flaws, and what we think society perceives in us. It is the value that we place on ourselves. When you value yourself, your peace and happiness, you begin to live life for yourself. This means that regardless of your circumstances you still find the courage to keep moving towards your goals. Understanding that nothing can ever justify bad treatment and/or abuse is an important part of maintaining your self-worth. Valuing yourself will always serve as a reminder that you are worthy of good things. This is good for your mental health as it provides you with an environment in which you can use positive affirmations to break through barriers. It also encourages peace of mind as you become more aware of your competencies and develop them. Self-worth results in self-awareness which is essential in maintaining a good state of mental health.


Maintaining good mental health is a continuous process in which we are constantly practicing healthy living. A big part of this cycle is understanding the difference between mental health and mental illness. This provides us with a guideline to what we can do to maintain good mental health. Moreover it equips us to advocate for resources and supports from our communities and governments. Mental illness just like any other physical illness is usually preventable. Future Black females must work as activists and advocates for good mental health by holding our communities and leaders accountable for the conditions in which vulnerable people live.