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5 Oklahomans on Black Mental Health

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions of Black and African Americans who have shaped the world we know, in the past and the present. 

According to Mental Health America, 13.4% of the American population identifies as Black or African American, and over 16% — or over 7 million people — have reported living with a mental illness in the past year. It’s time to talk about it. 

To help start the conversation about Black mental health, 988 Oklahoma asked five Black Oklahoma leaders one question: “If you could say one thing to a Black Oklahoman who is struggling, what would it be?”

Here are their answers. 

If you’re struggling with your mental health or thinking of suicide, the 988 Mental Health Lifeline is available 24/7. Call or text 988 for free, confidential help.

Dequayon “Chef Dee” Server

“Never give up and have faith. You’re not alone. Most importantly, keep God close. It’s things we go through in life, but it’s always temporary. It never lasts long.

Someone with mental health issues usually feels alone, so knowing someone is there for them makes a big difference and a big impact on their life.”

— Dequayon “Chef Dee” Server, Owner of Chef Dee’s Creations

Armand McCoy

“If I could say one thing to a Black Oklahoman who is struggling with their mental health, it would be that your feelings and experiences are valid and important. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Remember, you are not alone in this journey. There are people and resources ready to support you, understand you, and walk alongside you towards healing and empowerment.”

— Armand McCoy, Advertising Instructor at the Gaylord College at the University of Oklahoma

Sharina Perry

“When it comes to mental health within the Black community, there has long been a narrative that seeking help is ‘taboo.’ This ideology is not isolated to Oklahoma. It is linked to the generational trauma rooted in slavery and the result of living in underrepresented and impoverished communities.   

While its origin has many layers and is complex, it is the reality of being forced to do whatever is necessary to ‘get over it’ in the midst of navigating lack of access and resources. Historically, the only known copying mechanism was found in the church. The idea of waiting on God while praying through the pain.  

Until recent years, there were not the collaborative voices and platforms intentionally addressing the uninformed stigmas that surround mental health. Mental health concerns do not isolate demographic by race, gender or socio-economic status. We are all navigating the challenges of day-to-day life. We must all learn and encourage ourselves, family members and community to take solace in saying ‘I am not okay.’”

— Sharina Perry, Founder and CEO of Utopia Plastix

Marcus Black

“You are stronger, more resilient, more brave and courageous, and more precious than you know. It’s intricately woven into the tapestry of your DNA. Know that it’s okay to struggle, but also, know that everything you need to overcome any adversity is already inside of you!”

— Marcus Black, Author, Speaker, Podcast Host & Member of Generation Why Co.

John Bobb-Semple

“My journey and experiences have taught me that mental health starts with a view of your wellbeing or wholeness. Our mind, body and spirit are connected.

First off, you cannot control the challenges of the world or the way you may be treated, but we can practice keeping our minds focused on what is true, right, compelling, authentic, and worthy of celebration. There is no perfection in that practice. This practice causes me to be grounded in the hope I find is Jesus. Especially when I don’t feel strong.

Secondly, getting enough water, walks and sunshine go a long way.

Finally, the hard days don’t last always. You were created for a purpose and your mind may sometimes convince you otherwise. This is normal. On those days, reach out for help. My therapist often tells me, don’t go down the dark alleys of life alone. You will get through this.”

— John Bobb-Semple, Executive Director of Pogo

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