Updated: May 12, 2021
8 Tips for BIPOC Women to Help Improve Your Mental Health
By Aneesha Perkins & Charmain Jackman
“Because of African-Americans’ unique history of racist and sexist victimization, the Black community has an even harder time than others dealing with rape. This prevents survivors from getting help and our community from addressing the issue effectively.”
At InnoPsych, it’s critical to help bring more attention to sexual assault, as April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Why is this a meaningful conversation to have in the Black community? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 Black girls will be sexually abused before turning 18. It is without a doubt that the health and wellness of Black girls and women is imperative. Therefore, we have provided a few ways to help you recover, heal, and develop an intentional self-care routine.
Check out eight ways you can improve your mental health:
1. Develop Healthy Boundaries: Learning how to say "no" is a good start, but wait, there's much more to developing healthy boundaries. The word boundary has been floating around a lot lately, and for good reason. Boundaries help you define your different relationships by providing clear guidelines on what makes you comfortable versus what doesn't. However, it's critical to develop boundaries in all areas of your lives, including your finances, emotional and physical wellness, time, and resources. Make a list of areas where you feel overwhelmed, and begin developing a plan to create and manage health boundaries in those areas to ultimately prioritize your self-care. Check out Nedra Glover Tawwab, a Counselor and Relationship Expert’s book, Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself here.
2. Invest in Yourself: Growth is intentional. Change requires commitment and consistency. Every day you wake up with another chance and opportunity to decide how and if you want to grow. With the internet, you have access to many resources that offer guidance and direction in different areas where you desire to succeed. Whether it regards your health, finances, friendships, relationships, or professional goals, your relentless pursuit is necessary. Every day, set aside time for 30 minutes to read, study, write or research an area that you are working towards improving. Afterward, challenge yourself to incorporate what you've learned into your day or week. It's essential to apply and practice what you discover as soon as you know it...this will help you heal and grow!
3. Reconnect with your Body: For many women who have experienced sexual assault, they can have a complicated relationship with their body. Some women punish their bodies with excessive exercise or eating, while others may starve their bodies. Some may hide their bodies in oversized clothing because of feelings of shame. Developing a healthy body image is essential to your emotional healing journey, and working through the trauma in therapy can be life-changing. If talking about your trauma does not feel right consider body-based therapies such as Somatic Experiencing or trauma-sensitive yoga that help you release the trauma from your body. Other trauma-focused therapies include EMDR and brainspotting. Find a process that works for you and helps you to release the trauma!
4. Ask for Help: There is strength in seeking help. For Black women, a risk factor for mental health challenges is the Strong Black Woman (SBW) image. SBW is a coping mechanism initially developed as a response to racial oppression. However, it led to a belief that Black women are uncompromisingly resilient and strong without the need of being nurtured (Abrams & Morgan, 2019). We all need help at some point, and it's time to begin recreating our definition of strong. The next time your friends and family members ask if you need help, share some ways that they can support you. For some of us, asking for help is so foreign, we don’t even recognize when we need help. So, your first step may be identifying the areas where you need help. When you do ask for help, be as specific as possible and provide options. When others see that you're experiencing some challenges, they then have the opportunity to support you. The village that is required to raise our children is the same village that we should lean on when we need support. That leads us to the next point!
5. Build a Solid Community: Your circle of friends, mentors, and supporters matter. Your village can propel you into your destination, literally. Research reveals that individuals who have healthier relationships live longer and have more fulfilled lives (Walton et al., 2012). Find a few safe, solid, and supportive sisters to join you in your journey of life! Look for positive friendships and commit to being an equally great friend. You want friends you will love and affirm you and who will also challenge you to step into your greatness! To quote our founder, Dr. Jackman, “Focus your energy on building relationships that nourish you.”
6. Express Yourself: How do you express your most intimate feelings? Create or find an outlet to express yourself! Finding creative ways to release what you're feeling or experiencing is vital to your mental and emotional health. Consider trying a fun activity like painting by yourself or with a group of friends. Purchase some painting materials and have a zoom paint night with your girlfriends or other couples if you're in a relationship or married. Create a playlist with some of your favorite jams and paint the night away! Whether it is writing, poetry, a DIY project, drawing, painting, cooking a new recipe, being intentional and scheduling a creative activity to engage in regularly is essential to your emotional well-being.
7. Practice Positive Self Talk: Dr. Jackman encourages us to “Speak love to your heart and mind.” What words do you say to yourself daily? Are they encouraging, motivating, validating, and positive? If not, reflect on the areas you struggle with the most and create personal affirmations that combat those specific struggles. If it's helpful, place the declarations on your mirror, your work desk, or in areas with high visibility. While it is beneficial to have others who can lift you up during challenging times, it is equally important to learn how to encourage yourself! If you're looking for some helpful guided reflections, check out one of InnoPsych’s featured therapists, Dr. Jessica Smedley, Clinical Psychologist' workbook, "Dear Black Girl," here.
8. Prioritize your Health: The pandemic may have made prioritizing your health needs challenging. Now is a great time to make a list of different health concerns you can tackle, so reach out to your various healthcare providers for a check-up! COVID-19 may have caused emotional, financial, social, physical, and emotional changes in your life that may have impacted your physical health. Check in with a healthcare professional to gain insight into how your body has been managing these changes. If you're experiencing some mental health challenges that are interfering with your daily tasks, visit InnoPsych’s website and check out our directory of therapists of color here.
In 2006, Tarana Burke, an activist and community organizer founded the ‘Me Too’ Movement, which led to a multitude of sexual assault and previous childhood abuse disclosures (Alaggia & Wang, 2020). Her audacious courage opened the door for numerous women to use their voices and speak up. Tarana’s work has paved the way for community’s of color to begin having difficult, yet necessary conversations about sexual assault and abuse.
We hope that these tips have encouraged you to start a journey that focuses on healing your mind, body, and soul. You deserve tenderness, love, and care because you and your body matter. So as you go through this week, pick a tip for each day to practice and remind yourself, I, matter too.
If you or someone has experienced sexual assault, please contact the National Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673. The hotline is confidential and provides support 24/7.
For more information, please visit: https://www.rainn.org/resources.
Abrams, J. A., Hill, A., & Morgan, M. (2019). Underneath the mask of the strong black woman
schema: disentangling influences of strength and self-silencing on depressive symptoms
among u.s. black women. Sex Roles, 80(9-10), 517–526. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-018-0956-y
Alaggia, R., & Wang, S. (2020). “i never told anyone until the #metoo movement”: what can we
learn from sexual abuse and sexual assault disclosures made through social media? Child
Abuse & Neglect, 103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104312
Walton, G. M., Cohen, G. L., Cwir, D., & Spencer, S. J. (2012). Mere belonging: the power of
social connections. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 102(3), 513–513.
Www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention. (2018, August 08). Retrieved April 16, 2021, from