When I think of “mental health” Cee Lo singing “Crazy” comes to mind. But that's precisely the problem -- mental health is so much more than being “crazy"and of all people, Blacks should be the most mental health conscious. We’ve endured slavery. We contend with prevailing narratives about who and what we are; narratives used to justify our murder and incarceration. We know far too little about our mental health and frankly, we don’t even know where to turn to for answers. All of that changes now with Ourselves Black -- a Black owned, produced and curated mental health media platform. This changes everything.
Why Ourselves Black?
Why do we need a platform dedicated solely to Black mental health? The level of dehumanization that Black people have and still experience is unique in the American psyche. The stressors we face daily are distinct. We would be naive to think all of this has no impact on our mental wellbeing. Dr. Sarah Vinson, Founder of Ourselves Black, says, “Mental health can not be stigmatized and put into a corner as untouchable. We can’t afford not to talk about it until it’s a crisis. Ourselves Black -- a Black owned mental health magazine -- is an attempt to inspire and broaden the dialogue about Black mental health. It is an effort to make an issue that is central to our well being, our families, and our communities a part of our normal discourse. We have to get away from the thought that you’re either okay or crazy -- mental health is a continuum and every single one of us is on the spectrum from mental health to mental illness, and are subject to move up or down along it.” We need to talk about the full continuum of mental health because we experience life in full. Ourselves Black covers the full spectrum of Black life and mental health.
Blackness is like no other condition. Daily, we are forced to normalize a range of stressors and traumas -- from police shootings to “microaggressions” at the office, we are expected to not only endure but also continue functioning (often without the benefit of therapy). Maybe all of this contributes to the reality that 75 percent of Blacks develop high blood pressure by the age of 55. Perhaps this may help us understand why Black babies are more than twice as likely to die, versus white babies. Our mental health matters.
Meet Dr. Sarah Vinson, M.D.
Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson, M.D. is a FAMU alum and the Founder of Ourselves Black. She is a psychiatrist with experience in a diversity of work settings, including the public and private sectors and juvenile justice. She serves as Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the Morehouse School of Medicine and is the Program Director of their Child Psychiatry Fellowship. She is also the Founder of Peds Mental Health, a groundbreaking tech company with a mission to help primary care doctors service the mental health needs of children. Her journey to mental health was not easily predictable.
As a child, she saw the manifestations of mental illness impacting people in her community; however, she did not conceptualize the issues as treatable medical illnesses. It was not until medical school that she realized the impact that mental health treatment could have. This coupled with the very defined stigma surrounding mental illness made her decision to choose psychiatry as a specialty all the more surprising, for her. In her first year of medical school, Dr. Vinson even recalls telling a colleague that “psych was a waste of a medical degree.” During medical school, however, she began to learn about psychiatric illness and how it impacts people in our community. She slowly began to put the pieces together from her own background and knew she could make a difference in the realm of mental health. This Black queen has been blazing trails, ever since.
Support Ourselves Black
Ourselves Black is unlike any other publication or website available today. In it, readers will encounter a variety of voices, ranging from Harvard trained practitioners to people living with schizophrenia. Ourselves Black maintains the highest standards of quality and pushes the envelope on what we typically consider mental health issues. Climate change, gentrification and many other topics have been explored and if their quality is any indication, we can expect great content moving forward. Dr. Vinson believes wholeheartedly in this, so much so that she’s invested extensively in it, from her own resources -- to the tune of $50,000 to date. In order for this to be sustainable, however, we as a community must rally in support of Dr. Vinson’s upcoming fundraiser for Ourselves Black. Stay on the lookout for that, upcoming in April. It’s time to change the conversation on mental health and Ourselves Black is the platform for Black people to further that dialogue. Let’s all be a part of it.