Mental health is not a topic that’s often discussed in parts of the Black community. Because of America’s history of racism against Black people, many in the community have deeply-rooted and unaddressed traumas. And with so many people unwilling to get treated for their symptoms, the problem persists.

According to a recent study, depression is one of the most common mental illnesses affecting Americans today. More than 10 percent of Black people in the US are affected by depression at some point in their lifetime. Studies also suggest that Black women have a four percent higher prevalence of depression than Black men. Still, Black women were more open to professional help as an option compared to Black men.

In the study, 63 percent of Black people surveyed believe that having a mental illness is a sign of personal weakness. This is a dangerous assumption that’s ill-formed and incorrect. This stigma surrounding mental disorders is damaging to those struggling.

Fortunately, social media provides an outlet for Black people to open up about their mental health struggles and triumphs.
More and more Black people are working towards healing. Various non-profit organizations and charities are popping up to address mental health in the Black community. And a number of Black celebrities like Jhené Aiko and Michelle Williams have spoken candidly about their struggles, encouraging others to find the courage to seek help.

As a growing number of Black people find the courage to share their experiences, the shame surrounding mental illness is lessening. Aside from just sharing, it’s important to promote positive approaches to healing as well. There are many things you can do to nurture and maintain your mental health, whether you struggle with an illness or not. Here are some productive ways to better your mental health:


Leave Toxic Relationships

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At times, the relationships we invest our hearts into can actually cause heartbreak. It’s important to evaluate the relationships that you have with others. Your connections to close friends, family members, and romantic partners should be healthy and positive. If they’re not, it might be time to let go of them.

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When it comes to romantic relationships, arguments happen. While it’s normal to have disagreements, they shouldn’t be commonplace or escalate to physical altercations. The presence of violence in a relationship is a sign that it’s toxic. No matter how many apologies you receive, it’s crucial to stand your ground and walk away.

Everyone deserves relationships free from domestic violence. When you’re ready, The National Domestic Violence Hotline is here to listen with confidential support 24/7/365. Call 800-799-SAFE to speak to a qualified domestic violence counselor in your area.

Removing yourself from a dysfunctional relationship with a family member can be challenging. Sometimes, you might be shamed or coerced by other family members to reconcile. It’s important to always do what’s right for you. Depending on the nature of the relationship and why you cut ties, what’s right for you may mean keeping your distance.


Practice Self-Care Regularly

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For some, mental illness can contribute to feelings of low self-worth. Practicing self-care is a great way to boost your mental health. Some common ways to exercise self-care include treating yourself to a fancy meal, binge-watching your favorite show or soaking in a hot bath.


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Famed writer, director and actress Issa Rae helped set an example for many Black women by adopting “self-care Sunday” on her hit series, “Insecure.” Every Sunday, Issa and her best friend, Molly, made it a point to get together to celebrate themselves. Maintaining a consistent self-care routine helps to better sustain positive feelings and emotions.


Reduce Your Screen Time

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Social media has a huge impact on mental health, including the way people view themselves. Constantly seeing filtered images of people living their best lives can have a damaging effect on others’ self-esteem. When this happens, it’s wise to keep screen time to a minimum.

Knowing when to stay away from certain forms of media is critical for improving mental health. It’s common to browse social media when boredom strikes, but it’s not always productive. More positive ways to pass time include starting a hobby, reading a book or exercising. There are also a number of apps available, like Space, that can help users monitor and reduce their screen time.


Get Acquainted With Nature

Our environment can greatly impact our mood. This is why it’s important to choose positive, healthy places to spend your time.

Nature is a great source of peace and comfort for many people. You can encourage mental wellness by spending more time outdoors.

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For some, meditation at a park or beach brings satisfaction, while others find that taking an early morning hike helps them. Going outside for fresh air is an excellent mood-booster. You can go for a jog around the neighborhood as a way to get to know your neighbors. Also, going for a quick walk during your lunch break can ease work-related stress and tension.


Consider Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a holistic practice that involves using essential oils to produce positive feelings. There are many scents to choose from, and each one has its own unique purpose.

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Lemon, for instance, can boost energy levels, while lavender aids in relaxation. Vanilla helps conjure soothing, joyous feelings and peppermint is good for increasing concentration.

There are many ways to practice aromatherapy. Essential oil diffusers are commonly used to freshen the air and elevate a person’s mood.
Several body lotions, soaps and facial masks are formulated using essential oils to add an extra layer of luxury to your beauty regimen. For an even more relaxing experience, bath salts infused with essential oils are a good addition to any self-care routine.


Take Care of Your Body

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Part of taking care of your mental health has to do with caring for your physical health as well. It’s easy to forget to practice healthy habits when you’re busy with every day life. Still, eating right, exercising, and getting proper sleep are helpful for protecting your mind.

Preparing healthy meals and snacks is part of caring for your body. Additionally, increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables can help you look and feel good. According to a Mayo Clinic report, women should receive an average of 2.7 liters of fluid daily. This can include water that comes from eating fruits and vegetables.

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Getting a proper night’s rest is also critical for maintaining a healthy, high-functioning body. For a restful night’s sleep, it’s important to stop drinking at least two hours before bed. This helps to avoid disrupting quality sleep to use the restroom in the middle of the night. Another way to get adequate rest is to power off electronic devices that can prolong falling asleep.


Try Volunteering

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Volunteering is a productive way to help promote better mental health. Many people find that helping others seems to benefit them as much as it does those in need. Choosing a charity or non-profit organization that you believe in helps to empower you so that you can do the same for others.

There are several organizations that offer many opportunities to volunteer. Some common voluntary services include:

  • Spending time with lonely seniors
  • Providing tutoring services at a community center
  • Writing letters to child patients at a children’s hospital
  • Cleaning up debris at the beach
  • Planting flowers and vegetation at community nature center
  • Caring for sick or injured animals at an animal shelter
  • Feeding the homeless
  • Arranging care boxes for members of the military
  • Playing with children at a daycare center
  • Collecting and sorting food items to distribute to families in need


Take a Break

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Work can be a big stressor for many people. It may be challenging to find time to work and maintain a household. Employees who have accrued paid time off shouldn’t hesitate to use it. Whether it’s for a day to catch up on errands or a week-long vacation, taking a break from work can do wonders for your mental health.

Taking a break from caring is equally as important. Raising children or caring for elderly parents can sometimes be overwhelming. It’s easy to get so caught up with caregiving responsibilities, that you overlook your own needs. To avoid feelings of burnout, ask a friend or family member to take over for awhile. If a loved one is unavailable, consider hiring a babysitter or caregiver for a few hours so that you can take some much-needed time off.


Talk to a Professional

Therapy is a positive tool for improving mental health. Attitudes surrounding mental health in the Black community are changing for the better. As a result, more Black women are open to seeking professional help to heal their mental traumas.

Sharing your problems with a skilled professional can help speed up the journey towards healing. For some, therapy is a lifelong journey, while others prefer to check in only when they’re feeling particularly upset. It’s important to choose a therapist that makes you feel heard and understood. They should be someone whose values and belief system you align with.

Visibly distressed Black women talking to her therapist as she lays on the couch
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Many people prefer therapists that they can relate to. Therapy For Black Girls is dedicated to providing Black girls and women with resources to improve their mental health. They offer a directory of Black therapists who are available to meet your unique needs.

If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals.