Honoring Our Heritage, Nurturing Our Mental Health: A Black History Month Reflection

A Black woman smiles to herself while closing her eyes as she stands on a balcony on a beautiful night in a city.

By Jessica Orenstein

As a young Black woman, this Black History Month feels particularly poignant. It’s a time when we celebrate the richness of our past and the struggles and triumphs that have shaped not only Black culture but also American culture as a whole. Yet, it’s also a time to acknowledge the specific challenges that we, as Black people, face when it comes to our mental health.

The legacies of resilience and strength run deep in our veins. From the courageous narratives of James Baldwin and bell hooks to the visionary leadership of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, we inherit a history of overcoming adversity. But the weight of this legacy and the expectations that follow can feel heavy — it often comes with the pressure to push through pain without acknowledging it, and the resistance to rest when it is needed.

The truth is that our mental health is as important as our physical health, and it deserves just as much attention and care. However, societal pressures, racial discrimination, and economic disparities contribute to the disproportionate impact on our community’s emotional well-being. The cultural bias around mental health in our community, as well as the barriers to equitable and culturally sensitive mental health support, can make it difficult to seek help, leaving many of us to suffer in silence.

As we honor our past, let’s also commit to a healthier future — one where Black youth can access the mental health resources they need without fear of judgment and in full support and understanding from their white peers. It’s crucial that we create spaces where we can talk openly about our struggles and support each other in seeking and giving help.

We must remember that seeking therapy, counseling, or support is not a sign of weakness; it is an act of strength. It’s a move toward healing not just ourselves, but our community as a whole. It’s a small but powerful step in how we break the cycle of trauma and build a foundation for generations to come.

This Black History Month, let’s celebrate by taking care of ourselves and each other. Let’s honor the achievements of our ancestors by ensuring that we’re mentally and emotionally equipped to continue their legacy. We must live fully without the shadow of unaddressed mental health challenges dimming our light; we owe it to the leaders who fought for our rights. And we owe future generations the ability to decide when to take action and when to rest — a decision our ancestors weren’t given.

To my fellow Black youth, know that your mental health matters. Your feelings are valid, and your experiences are real. You are not alone. The Jed Foundation (JED) stands with you, offering resources, support, and a community that understands and uplifts you.

Together, we can uphold the richness of our history while forging a path to a mentally healthy future. Let’s make this Black History Month a time of reflection, action, rest, and a renewed commitment to our collective well-being.

Get Help Now

If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.