Black Women In The Mental Health Space Give Tips For Navigating Pandemic Fatigue

We do get weary.

Life & Travel

The "strong black woman" archetype—a perception that Black women are naturally strong, resilient, self-contained, and self-sacrificing—is a burden that has been carried since what feels like the beginning of time. According to a 2014 study done by the Journal of Black Psychology, "evidence suggests that SBW endorsement limits Black women's ability to cope healthily which exacerbates the negative mental health outcomes of stress." Fast forward to 2020-2021, and a pandemic only adds to that burden. Luckily, there's some brilliant Black women making moves in the mental health space by advocating for the demographic that is often overlooked. A year into the spread of COVID-19 across the US, not only is this virus killing Black women at a faster rate than their white counterparts, it's also leaving behind a heavier load.

The professionals, founders, directors and CEOs below have created outlets that are safe spaces for Black women to feel heard while providing resources to cope with the very real stressors only amplified by the pandemic. Find out more about the movements they're spearheading along with advice they shared with xoNecole on how to begin the healing process.

Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, Licensed psychologist, founder and podcast host, Therapy for Black Girls

Courtesy of Dr. Joy

Photo Credit: Tammy McGarity Photography

Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Below is Dr. Joy's four-point plan to showing yourself grace:

"(1) There's nothing wrong with you and yes many of us feel the same way. (2) Work with your rhythms. On the days you have a little more energy, lean into that and on the days you don't, lean into that as well. (3) Call in the reinforcements. Order in food or use grocery pickup instead of shopping. (4) Give yourself permission to do the bare minimum."

Dr. Karen I. Wilson, Ph.D., Director of ChildNEXUS

Courtesy of Dr. Karen Wilson

Photo Credit: ChildNEXUS

ChildNEXUS is a web-based platform that connects parents whose children struggle with learning or social-emotional issues with professionals who provide psychological and educational support services. Launched during the pandemic, ChildNEXUS is a Caress and IFundWomen of Color COVID-19 grant recipient which contributed to its success with funds, partnerships and more.

"I recommend seeking support and collaborating with others. Getting guidance reduces decision fatigue and presents you with options available to you that you may not have considered on your own, and collaborating with others also gives you an opportunity to discuss pain points and brainstorm how to address challenges. In 2020, I received coaching from IFundWomen and IFundWomen of Color, and their coaches encouraged me to launch a crowdfunding campaign for ChildNEXUS (yes, during a pandemic). I was able to receive a tremendous amount of support and collaborate with like-minded professionals at a critical time."

Naj Austin, Founder & CEO of Ethel’s Club

Courtesy of Naj Austin

Photo Credit: Ethel's Club

Ethel's Club is on a mission to create healing spaces that center and celebrate people of color through conversation, wellness and creativity. Launched during the pandemic, Ethel's Club is a Caress and IFundWomen of Color COVID-19 grant recipient which contributed to its success with funds, partnerships and more.

"My advice for people to thrive is to feel empowered by accomplishing the 'little' things - getting out of bed, going on a walk, making a nice meal, watering your plants. So much has been taken from us this year and we've experienced a profound amount of loss. It's important we reclaim our joy and sense of self wherever and however we can. I encourage people to build new rituals and practices that bring them joy. So much of our identity was tied to 'the before'—what does a healthy, happy version of you look like now?"

Elyse Fox, Founder & CEO of Sad Girls Club

Courtesy of Elyse Fox

Photo Credit: @jockograves

Sad Girls Club is a non-profit organization on a mission to create community and diminish the stigma around mental health, with a special emphasis on supporting women of color and the Millennial and GenZ population.

"My advice for pandemic fatigue is to slow down, listen to your body, and answer your body. Ask yourself what your body needs to get through the day, week and month. There's this unspoken sense of 'rushing' that I've been trying to unsubscribe to. The email can wait, the meeting can be rescheduled. We've been living through this for over a year now, and our mental health must be prioritized to get through this with our whole self intact."

Brianne Patrice, Executive Director of Sad Girls Club & Founder of Twenty Nine Thirty

Courtesy of Brianne Patrice

Photo Credit: Sad Girls Club

Twenty Nine Thirty is a restorative community connecting the dots between sensuality, sexuality, healing and wellness.

"Reclaim your inner child. So many of us are disconnected from our inner joy. Our energy is misaligned, because our inner child has been silenced or we've silenced them in hopes of protecting them. She, He or They, don't need our protection (not in that way). They need our love, fulfillment, exploration and connection. Thus, all of the things that once brought you joy, and all of the things you were told you were 'too grown for'- pick them back up and have fun!"

Cat Lantigua, Founder & CEO of Goddess Council

Courtesy of Cat Lantigua

Photo Credit: D'ana Nuñez (@itcovl)

Goddess Council brings together all women who are looking to make new friendships, participate in meaningful conversations, heal collectively, and exercise their divine right to experience joy.

"The past year has been challenging on so many levels. I think when reflecting on how we've been affected by the pandemic, we should all start off by acknowledging the fortitude we each possess to have made it through such trying times. We were all tested, yet we persevered! My advice for Black women as we still navigate the pandemic and try to find ways to thrive is to be gentle, and extend grace to yourself whenever possible. Of course, each of us have goals and aspirations we look to for motivation, but if the 'game plan' has changed as a result of this post-COVID reality, that is truly OK. I recommend using the past twelve months as a reminder to prioritize your mental health, cherished relationships, and to lean into wellness practices that make your life better."

Dr. Afiya Mbilishaka, Founder & CEO of PsychoHairapy, clinical psychologist and hairstylist

Courtesy of Dr. Afiya

Photo Credit: PsychoHairapy

Dr. Afiya innovated the practice and research of, "PsychoHairapy," where she uses hair as an entry point for mental health services in beauty salons and barbershops, as well as through social media. She's partnered with My Black is Beautiful to spread awareness.

"Black women in particular face unique stressors of racism and sexism in American society that negatively impact our mental health, but often we do not have access to or compatibility with the systems of care to fully address our mental health needs. We have convinced ourselves that we have to be strong and stoic throughout this pandemic. We have filled our schedules with taking care of everyone else—our partners, our parents and our children—we don't take care of the most important person—ourselves! However, here is a reminder that taking care of ourselves, whether physical or emotional, makes us better able to care for our loved ones in the long run.

"Enter the haircare and self-care plan. Yes, establish a whole plan that includes the simultaneous process of haircare and mental health care. This plan could entail everything from adding an invigorating scalp scrub to your routine, to going to bed early, or even getting your hair professionally styled. A slight color change, a defined twist out or a new updo can drastically change the way we feel about ourselves. If you are feeling down, find a new addition to your self-care routine, a new wash day routine or some bantu knots may just be calling your name. And of course, rest, move your body, meditate, eat well, reconnect, and know your limits."

Featured image courtesy of @jockograves

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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