Friday, May 15, 2015

Maz & Juan: Black Mental Health & A Hanging in Mississippi.

Just listened to a few Maz & Juan podcasts, one of which discussed mental health, specifically in communities of colour. I was linked to Maz & Juan through Ayesha Siddiqi’s podcast, pushing hoops with sticks. I follow Ayesha on Twitter and have read some of her work, she’s brilliant and I want to be friends with her. She's a great example of someone having some serious fucking things to say and then saying something funny about Kanye and not thinking it negates everything serious you've ever said. We are capable of having many opinions on various things, and they can occupy our mind at the same time. She did an episode of Maz & Juan on how white women hijacked the feminist movement (I'd argue feminism's roots are inherently racist, so it's not even about hijacking the movement but closer to neglecting / rejecting anything “other” to upper-class whiteness from the beginning). Feminism, like all anti-oppression spaces, has a lot of work to do.

After the episode, I made my way to another podcast, this one about mental health and black men. One of the main guests, Terrell Starr wrote an article on Buzz Feed about his experience with depression and suicide, his article discusses his experience. Our stories are different, but the pain is the same.

Terrell talked the importance of access to mental health, how he himself has access to insurance, but how those who usually need it desperately, do not. There was also mention of co-pay - what I understood to be the up-front cost of these services (that are then reimbursed by the insurance company). This has been an ongoing issue for me, since so few places are sliding-scale, and I can’t front 100+ dollars a week, or bi-weekly for therapy. It makes me so angry. Ask for help, but you know, once you do, shit kind of falls apart unless you've got money.

Terrell mentioned how part of the next step is helping people navigate the process of accessing mental health services. YES. YES THIS. How many times have a griped about the exhaustion I face attempting to find, locate, and access free or sliding-scale services? What kind of a success rate do I have? It's a discouraging process on a good day, let alone on a day when you feel like you're stuck in the anus of the devil. There are little organizations here and there, but there is nothing cohesive and all-encompassing, especially due to first-language access.

Another great point brought up by Terrell was the importance for him to find a therapist with which there was already a commonality. For him, that was a woman of colour with an understanding of racism and inequality. When I contacted the Argyle Institute, I asked for someone with an understanding of atheism, feminism, gender norms, body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Having someone to speak to who understands certain fundamental pressure points for you is so important. I was able to find a real connection with A (my 10-week therapist at The Argyle) and I adored her. It changed everything. Therapy can be excruciating on a good day, I needed a safe space and she immediately offered that. I was bummed that she had to stop seeing me to finish her doctorate, but I'm happy I had her when I really needed her.

Maz & Juan end their podcast with a segment called Tell Me Something Good. It’s heavy, discussing racism and oppression all day, so I think it's a nice feature to end on a positive note, or with something encouraging or beautiful. We gotta go back into the world every day.

I recommend listening to their podcast. Check it out. 

My Tell Me Something Good is how the lone-female guest of the podcast (on the mental illness episode) Indrani Balaratnam, mentions Rupi Kaur's photography projects surrounding menstruation, and it clearly makes the guys uncomfortable. This made me smile. She challenges them to go check it out, as should you.

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