What is Melanin and the Mind?

Melanin and the Mind is a platform for ideas surrounding wellbeing, neurodiversity, and mental health within the black community, powered by the black community.

MATM has recently been named as one of Rife Magazine’s incredible 30 under 30, check it out here!

What is mental health? And why do we need to focus on it?

Mental health influences our capacity to perform, changes our perception of the world, and allows us to cope with life. During lockdown, this has been an increasing issue, with extreme changes of lifestyle and routine causing a depletion of mental health.

The mental health foundation revealed that 24% of adults in the UK have suffered loneliness during the outbreak of COVID-19, including 44% of young adults reporting symptoms of depression.

With the recent unjust deaths of George Floyd and Elijah McClain, we are tired of seeing and hearing about people that look like us dying at the hands of racism. The empowering rise of the BLM movement has drawn awareness to the double struggle that black people face in and out of lockdown. As the lockdown eases, a focus must be held on the black community’s mental health.

Whilst attempts to silence us are being made, this is the perfect opportunity to emphasise the importance of mental health in the black community. It is crucial in times of isolation to remind ourselves that whilst isolating, we are not alone.

Why black mental health?

Living in an unjust world creates an increased struggle for black people. Poor mental health can generate negative ideas of the self, often reinforced by society, and it is important to diminish these ideas and replace them with hope, even when it feels like the world is against you.

Institutional racism aims to diminish the prospects of black people and can often leave us feeling as if we have fallen through the cracks of society. As soon as we are born, societal structures mean that black people have to work twice as hard as our white counterparts to get to the same place. This journey can be tiring, and discouraging, and so a spotlight for the successes, trials, and wisdom of members of the black community is essential.

Unemployment statistics revealed that among 16-24 year olds, black people made up a staggering 26% of this, however this does not reflect the potential of the black community but the power structures in place that aim to keep us from flourishing.

There is also a stigma around mental health in many black communities that needs to be addressed. The “strong black woman” character is a perfect example of this, and conveys the attempt to reduce the emotions and struggles of black women by comforting that with the stereotype of being “strong and independent”.

A study also revealed that young black men do not experience poorer mental health than other sub-communities until the age of 11, where the writers at Mind described this as a result of “stigma, cultural barriers, and systemic discrimination” all of which are more experienced by black men as they get older.

It is common for many Afro-Caribbean cultures to dismiss poor mental health as a barrier, when it is something we can all experience. With an older generation that has faced the cruel front of racism, the effects of today’s more covert racism and everyday struggles of the black community can often go unrecognised. It is essential to share the stories of one another and destigmatise conversations surrounding mental health.

What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity encompasses the fact that we are all wired differently, and puts an emphasis on the individuality of people concerning how we learn, think, process, socialise, and feel. Neurodiverse is an umbrella term for individuals with Autism, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette’s and anyone who is not neurotypical.

Patterns of behaviour in the neurodiverse community can often be negatively stereotyped and wrongly dismissed as “rude”, “naughty”, or “unsociable”. It is important to bring awareness to the fact we all process information and react differently, and normalise the experience of neurodiverse people.

Neurodiversity and blackness

As previously mentioned, in a world where negative stereotypes of black people still exist, the behaviours of people who are neurodiverse can often reinforce negative stereotypes and be seen as a “double disadvantage”. However, this is not the case. We must remember that we live in a world where typicality and uniformity is favoured, and anything that diverges from this society set norm is discriminated against. 1 in 4 minority children are often misdiagnosed and face the same struggle of falling through the cracks of society.

This website aims to share stories that normalise these experiences and continue to inspire, empower and address mental health and neurodiversity in the black community to ensure our voices are not only heard, but elevated.