February is Black History Month, and I want to highlight important ideas from Black leaders that support your mental health.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” At a time when our country is more and more polarized, decide to be a peacemaker. Find ways to build honest and understanding relationships. It is probably the most important thing you can do for our national mental health.
Booker T Washington said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached-in-life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” One of the most destructive things we can do is compare ourselves to others. We always come up short. Set personal goals rather than using other’s lives as a measuring stick for your success. Take stock of your own progress and let that be your motivation to take the next step.
Maya Angelou said, “Won’t it be wonderful when black history and Native American history and Jewish history and all of U.S. history is taught from one book…Just U.S. history.” The U.S. is, and has been, made up of the stories of countless individuals who have unique life experiences. Valuing that uniqueness can be healing. Validating someone’s story by honoring their life experience as true-important-and meaningful is essential to-a healthy-mature self-esteem. You have the power to make someone else know they matter.
Barack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” One of the pieces of advice I give adolescents is stop blaming others for their problems and focus on how they can be the solution. When you blame others, you give away your power to fix things. When you focus on how you can solve problems you become a difference maker.
W.E.B. DuBois said, “Read some good, heavy, serious books just for discipline: Take yourself in hand and master yourself. Make-yourself do unpleasant things so as to gain the upper hand of your soul.” Depression makes us want to shut down. Push back against that urge. Challenge yourself to learn new skills, learn about new subjects that interest you, have experiences that open you up to new ways of thinking, or visit new place. These all help us overcome depression and combat stress.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCCS, Executive Director