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BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month: Navigating Trauma in Black Culture

Updated: Jul 1

Written by: Michelle Tillman-Cureton, LCMHC/PsychoTherapist

Trauma is not race-specific, yet it has the overall reach of impacting cultures differently; specifically in the African-American/Black Culture. 


This month of July is BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Mental Health Month, also known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.


Black Culture

Our community has been taught to “push through” to “tough it out” and in doing so—we have learned to numb out, unknowingly allowing disassociation to become normal as well as negatively educating ourselves in different techniques that lead to emotional instability. We find it hard to feel, to articulate complex emotions, to understand why we react, and to remain in unhealthy relationships. We have become a culture, a people that accumulates to survival rather than thriving—different from any other culture. We have negotiated with trauma and pain, survived on fight/flight with our families, friends, with love, integrity, intimacy, and self-truths.


Community

Mental health services and medical service disparities disproportionately affect BIPOC communities, often leading to dismissal of physical symptoms and minimization of mental and emotional states. As we observe BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, it is crucial to advocate for equitable access to comprehensive mental health support. Let us amplify our voices, raise awareness, and demand culturally competent care that acknowledges the intersectionality of our experiences. Together, we can strive for change, promote mental well-being, and foster a sense of belonging within our diverse communities.


BIPOC in July

This month, I urge you to do something different that benefits self-identity and your culture: join an affinity group in your corporation. We have a Black African American chat channel, it is new; as a Gen X, I think this is awesome. Explore the different diverse opportunities and if there isn’t any—-create one. There are other ways: read a book, support a BIPOC author. I am currently reading and suggesting this book in my clinical work: “Black Liturgies, prayers, poems, and meditations for staying Human by Cole Arthur Bailey. Listen to a Podcast emphasizing BIPOC cultural care: https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/article/reclaiming-black-imagination/.


As a Black woman therapist, I have listened to and witnessed the pain, self-hatred, and lostness that consumes many individuals in our BIPOC community. I tend to hold them close. Trauma intrigues me, empathically not just clinically. Most of my greatest connections occur when clients disclose how our relationship has impacted them. I often hear: “I feel seen by you, you hear me” and “I can tell you are spiritual” and God, religious nor spiritual talk has entered the session.


There are different ways to integrate indigenous knowledge into our therapy practices: implementing cultural competency, teaching emotional intelligence, and understanding that self-knowledge is imperative. I believe that corporate collaboration and spiritual guidance between management, clinical, and clients are paramount in embracing cultural individuality. It is proven that trauma causes us to be fragmented and disembodied; there is more to healing than just talk therapy. We want to treat the whole person, and we can do that by showing up for ourselves and being altruistic, both the clinician and the client.

I implore you to educate yourself and others for greater insight and action during BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month that carries into your moments, your daily life, and throughout the year. However you decide to honor your therapy journey, I hope you find yourself where you need to be and your healing journey increases your self-belief. Continue to trust yourself again and again.


In Health & Wellness,


~Michelle Tillman-Cureton, LCMHC


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