Mental Health is More Important Than Ever

Especially After a Year Like 2020.

By: Jessica Ourisman
Mental Health is More Important Than Ever

“2020 has brought many things to the surface. Some good, some bad,” says Wilma Mae Basta, founder of DRK Beauty. “As we take our first steps into 2021, we have been given some empowering tools to begin taking control of our mental health journeys.” One such tool is DRK Beauty Healing, a well-being and mental health platform that helps female-identifying individuals of color receive mental health treatment without shame, stigma, or financial hardship holding them back.

Mental Health is Wellness:

Making wellness a priority in 2021 means prioritizing mental and physical health, as the two are closely connected due to a phenomenon known as the mind-body connection. “I encourage people to expand their view of what mental health and wellness [are] and the benefits gained when they are treated like priorities,” says Jacqui Johnson, LPC, CCMHC, PMH-C, a clinician for DRK Beauty Healing. “Our mental health isn’t limited to our emotional well-being. It affects our physical, nutritional, intellectual, financial, spiritual, social, and environmental health as well,” she says.

This is particularly relevant following the hardships faced in 2020. “None of us were prepared for the existential trauma that we collectively experienced in 2020, and we should be aware that 2021 will likely pose more challenging times,” Johnson says. Sociological research confirms that the effect of the global pandemic has been deleterious to the mental health of populations spanning the globe. There is also a certain irony in the self-defeating nature of stress within the context of COVID-19: The chronic activation of the stress response has been linked to suppressed immune function, a particular concern in our pandemic-era world.

Coping Techniques for Improved Wellness:

Since we are isolated from our friends and communities right now, coping comes down to the individual ability to incorporate stress-reduction practices into our lives in meaningful, sustainable ways. “The most important thing is to be intentional in starting a practice that promotes internal peace,” Johnson explains, referencing the physiological effect known as the relaxation response. Genuine self-care is highly personal: For some, this might mean cultivating a yoga, meditation, or breathwork practice; for others, coloring, reading, talking on the phone, playing with a pet, napping, or grounding outdoors in nature could be preferable.

Adequate sleep, nutrition, exercise, and taking supplements are some other health-related practices that can be added to your wellness tool-kit, but the role of individual therapy with a licensed clinician should not be underemphasized. Therapists are trained to assess the various bio-psychosocial factors playing a role in your situation, helping to validate your emotions, to identify situational stressors, to empower you to address them, and to provide clinical oversight in the management of mental health symptoms.

Vulnerable Groups During the Pandemic:

Just as individual resiliency varies, so, too, does the impact of the global pandemic. Sociological research confirms that disparities in adverse psychological impact falls along socio-economic lines. A 2020 study conducted in the United States identified the most at-risk groups as young adults, essential workers, unpaid care-givers, and racial and ethnic minorities. (MMWR 2020) In other words, research confirms that the mental health of our country is declining, particularly within these specific populations.

Johnson points out that it is also important to remember that aside from COVID-related stress, at-risk populations face unique, additional stressors. As an example, Johnson explains that, “The Black community is disproportionately impacted due to systemic racism while also [being] at a higher risk of getting sick and dying from COVID-19.” 

Where to Give Back:

This is why the initiative set forth by DRK Beauty Healing poses such an admirable opportunity to give back to the community. Founded by Wilma Mae Basta in May of 2019, the non-profit seeks to donate 10,000 hours of free therapy to female-identifying clients of color that have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. “Our non-profit initiative… was created as a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd’s murder, and its impact on the mental health of the Black community,” says Basta. In doing so, DRK Beauty Healing is connecting an at-risk population to mental health resources, aiming to uplift and empower those in need.

To donate to DRK Beauty Healing, please do so on their GoFundMe page.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7440121/

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2764404

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032720325891#bbib0001

 

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