Updated: Jul 2
EMBRACE YOUR CROWN CAMPAIGN
By: Jessmine Cornelius
Fight the stigma.
What has been your experience with mental health? Are there any struggles you overcame or how do you hope to help others overcome theirs? I have struggled with mental illness from the age of 8. A traumatic event took place to where my Mother lost custody of myself and my brother and thus began a long line of advancements in both hurt and healing. Initially, because of that experience and many before, I was diagnosed with clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and ADHD. Along with, I saw a psychiatrist weekly and was on medication to assist with the struggles of my mental health. As I got older and living with a family member now, I began to distance myself from the prescription medications and found healing in the act of self-harming. The first time I remember self-harming was in 2005, when I was in Grade 5 and had a rough day at school along with a rough night at home. I would start with my wrist and eventually move to making long marks on my thighs because I knew those could not be seen. By the time I hit middle school, I wasn’t taking any medications at all except my sleep aid and was only going to therapy once every two weeks. My behavior in school exhibited the lack of discipline in taking the medications but I refused. I was still living in a household that was physically and emotionally abusive while dealing with the abandonment issues that came with my parents not having custody of me and them being absent, in the midst. In 2010, I was sent to live with my Dad which lasted a short six months before he kicked me out in the middle of an October night. I walked to a neighboring subdivision and called my Mom who then came and picked me up and I stayed with her for about a year and a half. She was still abusive, and it was even harder now because I had no medication and no therapist.
I attempted suicide for the first time in 2014 after separating from the Army and have had a total of four suicide attempts since then. After the last one failing, I told myself that perhaps, it’s something bigger that I cannot see and that is my purpose. I remember reading somewhere that what we see is temporary by that which we cannot see is eternal. From there, I began to focus on my gift of singing and have thrived since then. Through my gift, I have helped others get through some of their most difficult times — including those times where they, too, wanted to give up on life.
From your knowledge, what myths or negative stigmas have been attached to black mental health? If any, how did they shape your thoughts about getting help/going to therapy?
It is no secret that hyper masculinity and the “angry/strong black woman” stereotypes play a huge part in how black people view mental health and these can date back to the slavery era. Black men and women were subjected to many heart wrenching experiences where they had no opportunity to grieve due to their conditions. That definitely has had the tendency to spread from generation to generation perhaps in a new light but with the same understanding.
Black men can and are allowed to feel. It is normal.
Black women are allowed to cry and breakdown. It is normal.
And not all Black women are angry when they don’t agree with what you say.
Have you ever been to therapy? Why or why not? On a scale of 1-5 how important is it to have a therapist that is culturally competent?
YES! Because I needed it! I needed to talk to someone who did not me or my walk and would pass no judgement! 5
Was there any reason why you were not able to seek therapy?
Lack of Culturally Competent Therapists; Lack of Family Support