From the coronavirus pandemic continuing to have a disproportionate impact on people of colour to the past week’s events — which saw the senseless killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, propel protests against police brutality across the country — it is a devastating and vulnerable time for the black community. Even before the virus and these latest brutal acts of racial injustice, the fact was, and remains, that black Americans are 10% more likely to experience serious psychological distress and are more likely to experience socioeconomic disparities that contribute to worse mental-health outcomes, while in the UK suicide rates are higher in black men than in their white counterparts. Addressing this critical issue, many black individuals and platforms continue to foster community and provide resources to those suffering mentally.
“Our bodies are really the arbiters of safety, and when we’re not safe in the world, being honoured in our humanity, or if our basic human needs aren’t being met, then we start to break down —spiritually, emotionally, physically,” explains Latham Thomas, doula and founder of wellness platform Mama Glow. “The only pathway to move forward and stay strong is to be gentle with yourself and become acquainted with your vulnerabilities. For us to be able to do this work constantly and show up, we have to take care of ourselves, and how we do that is so hinged on us being able to have access and tools for self-care.”
In addition to educating and empowering the black community on maternal health and birth equity, Thomas shares tools of consciousness, such as yoga and meditation, to help individuals cope with pain and stress. In the same spirit, meditation expert Light Watkins demonstrates how harnessing the power of mindfulness can be beneficial in fighting against and dealing with the emotional trauma of racial discrimination. Whether it leads to participating in a guided meditation session or a cathartic forum, Watkins believes social media is a robust resource every day, but particularly in this moment when social distancing hinders gathering in person.
“The overarching, overall objective is to connect, to be heard and be seen,” says Watkins of utilising social media as a resource and tool for connection. “The great thing about all of the different platforms that we have today is that there’s a tool that usually fits everyone who wants to be able to access their full potential in whatever way. We need our full mental faculties so that we can continue speaking, fighting, and protesting authentically.” From Sista Afya to the Black Mental Health Alliance, here are 12 Instagram accounts that are working to provide mental-health and self-care support for the black community during this time of collective heartache and devastation.
Founded by Lauren Ash, Black Girl In Om is a global platform that provides a “space for women of colour to breathe easy,” offering holistic wellness workshops largely based in journaling, mind-clearing meditation, and body-restoring yoga. Recently, Ash launched The Circle, a new digital initiative that provides members with journaling prompts, thought exercises, and guided meditations to further support the global community of black women and women of colour.
Addressing the deep need for more diversity in the wellness industry, platform Dive In Well was recently relaunched and expanded by founder Maryam Ajayi, an entrepreneur and energy healer, to offer more digital workshops, workbooks, and consulting in an effort to bolster both individuals and businesses to support inclusivity.
The Black Mental Health Alliance is a community-based membership organisation designed to develop and sponsor education programs and services to support optimal mental health and well-being within the black community. Amid the COVID-19 crisis, BMHA has been offering engaging online discussions, from discussing the strengths and vulnerabilities of the black community to help navigating the economic crisis.
Founded by psychologist Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Therapy for Black Girls works to destigmatise mental-health issues and make resources, such as in-office and virtual therapy, Q&A sessions with experts, and deep dives on relevant topics, more accessible for black women.
Founded in 2016 by poet and performance artist Tricia Hersey, The Nap Ministry examines the liberating power of rest, underlining sleep deprivation as a racial and social issue. On Instagram, Hersey offers strategies for more restorative rest, education around black liberation, and tools such as her grief and healing Spotify playlist.
Bedford–Stuyvesant-based HealHaus was born out of a need for a wellness space that “allows people to come as they are without any judgements or expectations,” explains Elisa Shankle, who cofounded the organisation alongside Darian Hall. Pivoting many of their offerings digitally in the time of social distancing, HealHaus has been offering healing workshops, as well as donation-based yoga, meditation, and healing sessions.
Founded by activist Rachel Cargle, the Loveland Foundation provides financial assistance to black women and girls seeking therapy for healing and well-being. In addition to building community through hosting dynamic talks, the platform’s Instagram account has become a favourite for inspiring and informational graphics that promote self-care and mental-health support.
Latham Thomas is a doula, author, and founder of Mama Glow who has made it her mission to bridge the gap between wellness, spiritual growth, and radical self-care — and her Instagram is a reflection of just that. In addition to being a source of support and information for expectant black mothers, who are at higher risk of experiencing poor maternal-health outcomes, Thomas offers aid in restorative ritual practices, such as meditation as well as webinars for doulas and parents.
Rest for Resistance is a grassroots, trans-led organisation uplifting LGBTQIA+ individuals, namely trans and queer people of colour. As a platform, it fosters a safe online space that promotes meditation as an act of resistance, and features art, writing, and a directory of intersectional mental-health resources.
Bringing together black women across the African diaspora, Sista Afya is a platform founded by social worker Camesha Jones that focuses on sustaining mental wellness through building community, sharing information, and providing access to quality, low-cost mental wellness services. One of Sista Afya’s most popular series is the Sister Support Group, which promotes friendship and sisterhood as vehicles for life-changing mental-health support.
While Williamsburg social and wellness hub Ethel’s Club — which offers working, gathering, and performance spaces designed specifically with people of colour in mind — had to close its brick-and-mortar location, founder Naj Austin has transitioned their community online. During this challenging time for the black community, Ethel’s Club has been offering free online gatherings, performances, and healing sessions.
In this time of unrest, working through anger, grief, and frustration is that much more emotionally taxing. Answering the collective longing for guidance on how to employ mindfulness as a tool, meditation expert Light Watkins has been sharing videos talking through coping with COVID-19 and confronting racism.
This article was originally published by Vogue.com.