"Knowing who you are begins in the mind."
― Bebe Moore Campbell
We have all heard the saying, “It’s okay not to be okay.” And while this is a true statement, it is often difficult for women and people of color, in particular, to accept and internalize its truth. This is because we are keenly aware that we live in a society where our color, our gender, and other aspects of our beings are often viewed as deficits. As such, it is not surprising that when we feel stressed and mentally burdened, we are reluctant to admit it. We do not want to say it out loud.
There have been recent reports in the media about the increasing number of young women in mental health crisis. And for women of color, more mainstream mental health challenges are compounded by the additional stressors of systemic racism, social exclusion, cultural norms, and higher levels of self-criticism and judgment. It is undoubtedly the case that women of color weather more psychological and social burdens than their counterparts who do not identify as people of color. Decades of research support this.
However, I believe that one of the most important factors impacting our mental wellness is how we view ourselves and what standards or value systems we use to gauge our own worth. All of this hinges on our mindset.
I would posit that a healthy mindset must be anchored in the truth of who we are.
So who are we?
We are overcomers, conquerors, innovators, intellectuals, creators, storytellers, trailblazers, history-makers, arbiters of justice, nurturers, healers, champions of light and love, and so much more.
And please understand, being all of these things does not preclude us from needing to attend to our mental health. In fact, the most successful and well-known trailblazers of current and past generations have openly acknowledged that they regularly engage in mental wellness practices. Many have also shared the sad reality of what has transpired when they have neglected to do so.
Our World Changer of the Month, Bebe Moore Campbell, a world-renowned author, was also a staunch mental health advocate. She became a champion of mental health awareness after weathering the challenges of mothering and caring for her immensely talented daughter, actress Maia Campbell, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The elder Campbell, who was quoted as saying, “Knowing who you are begins in the mind,” also publicly and regularly reiterated that there should be no shame in a person’s acknowledgment of their struggles with mental illness. In other words, needing or seeking out mental health support does not detract from our genius or our exceptionalism. Our mental health is one component among many that comprise who we are. While the state of our mental health does not define us, it should not be ignored or neglected.
As we begin Mental Health Awareness Month, we should celebrate the life of Bebe Moore Campbell and allow her legacy to ignite a fire within all of us to prioritize our own wellbeing.