To be clear right from the start, as a white chick, I’m not the intended audience of The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health by Rheeda Walker. It’s not that it’s not relevant, but the author is clear that I’m not who she’s trying to speak to. This books is written by a Black woman and explicitly directed at Black people. However, it also offers interesting cultural insights that are relevant to all audiences.
The author explains that she did a Ph.D. in psychology because she wanted to challenge the privileged assumption that depression in Black people looks the same as in white people. Depression the illness has similarities, but depression the experience is very much culture-bound.
Throughout the book, she gives scenarios to illustrate the concepts covered. These are all explicitly tied into Black culture and the things that Black people are faced with. The notion of improving psychological fortitude underpins the various topics covered.
Early on, the book addresses the issue of suicide. Walker acknowledges that it’s a common belief among Black pastors that suicide is a white people issue, and Black people are seen as having too much resilience for suicide.
Racism and its effects come up often throughout the book. Walker gives suggestions on how how to distinguish between disordered anxiety and the very real worries that Black people face because of racism and horrific situations like the killing of Trayvon Martin.
The author argues that assimilation won’t help, and can lead to the internalization of racist ideas. Her research has shown than Black people who don’t view their own Blackness in a positive light are at a higher risk for suicide.
She suggests that psychological fortitude benefits the most from increasing connectedness with Black culture. She encourages embracing natural hair and African American Vernacular English (also known as Ebonics) as examples to promote reconnection.
There’s a chapter devoted to faith, and the benefits in terms of both spirituality and connection to culture and community. The author makes it clear that talking to a pastor isn’t mental health care, and while you would pray to the Lord, “sometimes God sends a psychologist.”
The book offers suggestions for supporting your child’s mental health and your own wellbeing as a parent. There’s a chapter on therapy that covers how to access it, common misconceptions, and what therapy actually looks like. The author also covers some CBT-based coping tools.
While I can’t directly speak to how well this book will connect with target audiences, I thought it was very well written and delivered an important message. I would definitely recommend it.
And on the topic of racism, I truly hope that justice will be served in the recent shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed Black man, at the hands of two white men. There’s a petition to the relevant district attorney on Change.org calling for justice in the case; it’s called I Run With Maud.
The Unapologetic Guide to Black Mental Health is available on Amazon.
I received a reviewer copy of this book from www.netgalley.com.
You can find my other book reviews here.
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