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Once stigmatized and criticized sharply within our community, now the mental health conversation is changing–and not a moment too soon.

In recent weeks news headlines about Black people committing suicide have reignited the collective need to address our innermost thoughts.

Today Black folks are having open an honest dialogue about unique challenges that only we can truly understand. Traumatic events that the older generation once gave up to God in prayer or suffered through in silence are now being confronted head-on. Yet, who takes care of the people who take the best care of us?

In a new and refreshing Quickbooks roundtable, Award-winning journalist and entrepreneur Soledad O’Brien moderates an enlightening panel of Black business owners regarding health and wellness. 

The multi-hyphenated Tracee Ellis Ross led the conversation. Ellis-Ross, founder of Pattern Beauty, has made it her life’s goal to live authentically to herself, saying, “Me being me, all the time, has taken a long time and a lot of courage.”

Black Mental Health Matters

The ability to be herself is paramount to the highly acclaimed Ellis-Ross, yet to live authentically in a social media era can also come with its own set of challenges.

“Social media conditions us to believe that we always have to pound it and go very hard and we need to break free of that,” said fellow panelist Kier Gaines, a therapist and mental health advocate. He would follow, “You have limitations, and those limitations don’t make you weak; they make you a person.”

A QuickBooks small business survey states “nearly one-third of Black respondents say that they can’t prioritize self-care as much as they would like. What’s more revealing, 23% of the 4,000 respondents also stated self-care is not important to them.

Gaines elaborated, “Like most people, I don’t like to ask for help, but we all need it. But I’ve learned that I don’t lose any power. When I reach out and ask for help, I don’t lose any momentum—I actually gain something back.”

Panelist Nayo Carter-Gray, CEO and founder of 1st Step Accounting states, “I’m a big fan of boundaries. With everybody having a cell phone or access to you on social media, people believe that they have 24/7 access to you. And that is not true.” 

Being Black in America often comes with daily anxieties, stresses, and pressures that can feel somewhere between drowning and suffocating. Yet for  Black-owned Businesses, mental health is not always at the forefront of their priorities.

It’s okay to take a break

According to Quickbooks’ Black Business Health Survey, Black workers and business owners are more likely to face financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic while also being less likely to have quality health care access or health insurance.  

The survey further noted, “more than one in five Black business owners (27%) describe the current financial health of their business as ‘poor’ or ‘terrible’—compared to one in ten (11%) of other business owners.”

Mental Health is Physical Health

Panelist Eden Hagos, founder of the Canadian-based creative agency and consulting firm Black Foodie, states the associated cost of quality mental health care shouldn’t be a factor for self-care. Hagos stated “… I could not afford therapy, I could not afford a gym membership. But I could afford a walk. And I could afford a call with my friend, or you know, just taking some time with my family like those were things that were within my access.”

Ellis-Ross added, “Instead of rushing and moving really fast thinking it’s going to make everything fit in, I try to walk slowly and be where my feet are.”

With seasonal affective disorder looming for many, this roundtable may offer the gift of light needed for someone’s darkest days.

Hailing from Charlotte North Carolina, born litterateur Ezekiel J. Walker earned a B.A. in Psychology at Winston Salem State University. Walker later published his first creative nonfiction book and has...

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