Op-Ed: Let us not forget about our mental health

By: Essence Buckman, senior writer

Midterms have just ended, meaning that students at Wofford have made it to the halfway point of the semester. Around this time, it isn’t uncommon to have tests, papers, and research projects thrown at us from all angles. Maintaining a good GPA, being involved in organizations or community services, working, eating right, getting an adequate amount of sleep and maintaining a social life are all elements crucial to a person’s wellbeing and future, yet are all hard to balance.

Self-care for human beings of any color or creed is important. However, I want to focus on this issue in regards to a certain group of people at Wofford, those who regard themselves as African or of African descent, including myself. We deal with all the aforementioned issues, and some may feel we deal with even more: the struggle to find a sense of belonging, to be heard or to feel comfortable in the classroom setting because our presence makes a significant difference, are just a few things that add to our experience as a student attending a predominately White college.

Suffering from all factors stated above, there are times that I personally have found myself not wanting to get up and go to class for general and racial reasons. I don’t feel comfortable at times in some of my classroom settings, I don’t feel a part of the “Wofford community” here and I’m still trying to stay involved and focused on my studies on top of all of that.

I also find myself bottling those stressors within me because it feels what I need to express is something people commonly misconstrue as a standard Black complaint, or it’s something others cannot understand. When it comes to venting to my Black peers, my parents or elders about my struggles, there is the notion that I am strong and will get over it. Or worse, I’m told “everyone has those problems too, be thankful you’re not poor or on the streets.” While I am sometimes encouraged to speak up, I still feel there is both an active and passive mentality Black people have against mental health.

I’ve heard Black pastors and church members say to put “problems in the hands of the Lord,” “there is no such thing as AD/HD, the child just needs to be disciplined even more,” or “those are ‘White people problems.’”

Reflecting on that, what do I do when my own community stigmatizes something that is this important? I neglect myself due to stressful courses, preparation for my Capstone, working, losing sleep and not eating right.

I don’t hear from many of my Black peers that I should focus on my self-care, yet I have heard it from White people. Why? Because, again, that concept is sometimes foreign or overlooked in Black communities…

I do not want to make this long-winded and I am not speaking for every Black person on campus, but I am speaking to and for those who can level and relate to this issue. College is hard, living and navigating through White culture in college is even harder and life in general can be the hardest.

So while we’re here, I just wanted to reencourage myself and encourage other Black students that are silently suffering and battling anything behind closed doors to look into the mental health services on campus, which are free, or look for help off-campus if that is more comfortable.

Please don’t let perceptions you may have grown up with misguide you into not focusing on your mental, emotional and psychological health. These factors can affect your body physically, thus taking a toll on every day life and, possibly, your future. Education and advocacy on this topic for the Black community are extremely important because I don’t hear many people talk about it until something terrible happens. Let’s not wait for tragedy before we enforce self-care and make mental health a primary focus.

Let’s encourage Black students, here and everywhere, and their families and friends of any background to put their well-being and mental health first.

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