I’ve been in therapy, but the reasons for my therapy have never included the trauma of racism, of living inside a black or brown skin in a white-supremacist society. Nor have I been misinterpreted because the colour of my therapist’s skin was different from my own. Which is why Black Minds Matter (BMM) is so necessary, so very important. Why Black therapists who won’t misinterpret a Black client’s experience (as a white therapist might) are essential; why Black Minds Matter provides free therapy (funded by donations) to clients.
Black Minds Matter UK was founded in June, 2020 and, by December, 500 clients had begun therapy through the organisation, but BMM needs more funding for the 1,200 people on its waiting list.
Young black women need to know that you can be vulnerable and ask for help. So I decided … to create this character who isn’t perfect, or strong, who can’t endure everything – because learning that is when I started to get better.
She gave Queenie, the young Black heroine of her novel, an experience that stops some Black people from going into therapy. Queenie and her Jamaican-born grandmother, Veronica, have this conversation (pages 283-284):
Queenie: I was the first person in this family to finish school, to go to college, to get a degree, to get a full-time job –
Veronica: Yes! And di firs’ person to go to psychotherapy. I am telling you. You are nat going. And dat is dat.
But when Queenie’s grandfather joins the conversation, he says:
Maybe if all ah we had learned to talk about our troubles we wouldn’t carry so much on our shoulders all the way to the grave. … Maybe we haffi learn from this new generation, Veronica.
There are testimonials from Black Minds Matter’s clients here and one of the Black therapists who works through BMM (and elsewhere) writes about the impact of George Floyd’s murder and coronavirus on Black mental health, here. Here’s an extract:
It has been my honour to witness my Black clients move away from what makes them unhappy, become more grounded, take back their autonomy, take better care of themselves and gain greater awareness and self-acceptance. I have seen my Black clients awaken and create beautiful lives where ‘everyday may not be joyful but they find joy in everyday’.
The mental health charity MIND is aware of the problem and there’s an American branch of Black Minds Matter. And, at the end of this link, from Sunshine Behaviourial Health, there’s a list of culturally competent mental health providers in America.
Here in the UK, the fictional Queenie’s therapy was through the NHS, but the waiting lists are long. I was lucky enough to be able to pay for my therapy but without it, my life would have remained an internally-frightening, unstable one. Please think about making a donation to Black Minds Matter. When I made mine just now, I saw they’ve reached 93% of their target, so only 7% to go. Please make a donation for the sake of those who badly need to talk to someone who’ll understand them, someone qualified to help them put their lives back together, someone who can give them, as one BMM client says here:
Help to get me out of the darkest space I found myself in, with a … secure path to remain out of it once our sessions finished.