By Rhyan Nile, Feature Writer

COVID-19 has affected civilization in numerous ways, specifically in death and wellness. More than 143,000 African Americans and 160,000 Latinx have died since the pandemic. It is very likely that we all have a personal connection with someone in the Black or Brown community that has passed away from COVID. Because we are surrounded by so much death and illness, in the past year alone, mental health disorders have increased into double digits, but due to the existing stigma around mental health, the exact number is under-reported. Unity Care has advocated for thousands of youth and families impacted by former assistance providing services within five pillars of success, which include: Housing, Education, Employment, Wellbeing, and Unconditional Care. There has been an increase in suicides within the Black and Brown communities, increase in racial trauma, not feeling safe in our everyday routines; grocery stores, churches, schools, etc. The Black and Brown community need more attention and help than ever during this time. We as a nation need to start normalizing the conversation about mental health and wellness. 

“We live in a society where we unfortunately celebrate hate,” said Andrè Chapman, founder and CEO of Unity Care. And what better time to come together when our world is falling apart. 

PANEL 1: Mental Health, Wellness, and Spirituality

Dr. Noha Aboelata, CEO of Roots Community Health explains how important it is to stick to the dialogue about COVID-19 and continue to use the safety protocols while encouraging one another about the vaccinations and updates. “The pandemic is not behind us yet. We’re still in an evolving situation and it’s still serious” said Dr. Aboelata. There is so much stigma around mental health and because of that most of us have no idea where to begin improving our mental health. Dr. Kristee Haggins, community healer, African centered psychologist, consultant and professor gives the youth tips on how to start taking care of their mental state. Feeling the impact from COVID, school shootings, community violence (anti-blackness and racism) etc. can cause depresion, anxiety, fear, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse, which means we need to become more self aware. “Take practical steps in reinforcing being seen and valued. African term “Sawabona ” being the idea of seeing each other, as in, seeing who someone truly is, seeing into their soul. Give impressions of what is truly needed for your health: getting enough sleep, the right nutrition, hydrating, who can I trust?” suggest, Dr. Higgins. Spirituality is significant in association with mental health and even physical health. “Faith is not a get out of jail free card. It is not a get out of problems free card. It is not a get out of trouble free card. It is not a get out of sickness free card. We have to deal with these things” said Pastor Anthony Williams, experienced senior pastor. All three professionals were in agreement about the best tactics to take to improve self care- Take a moment to breathe. Be in the moment, appreciate your natural element. “Caring for myself is not self indulgence, it is self preservation and that is an act of political warfare” Audrey Lord. 

PANEL 2: Nutrition and Exercise as Fundamental to Wellness 

There is power in nutrition for not only your physical health but also for your mental health. Joceleyn Dubin, MS, RD; Lead public Health Nutritionist county of Santa Clara public health explains how 98% of serotonin is in our gut. “Our nervous system is the most active in our gut (butterflies, gut feelings). The bacteria in our gut play an enormous role in having a good day or a bad day because they’re creating a lot of chemicals. Use your refrigerator and pantry as your Pharmacy” said Dubin. Adopting the “Championship Mentality” and not only eating food we love but foods that will put us in good moods is something we should all consider. Curtis Robinson, Linebacker for the NFL 49ers believes balance is the key. “My idea of self care and wellness was more physical than it was mentally/spiritually. And once I was able to find a balance in my life, was when I really started to feel better individually which carried into my work” said Robinson. Sidney Jones, Cornerback for the NFL Seahawks has similar beliefs. “Physically, mentally, spiritually, the goal is to always want to do your best. If you feel good, you’re going to be at your best. That’s how I look at life” said Jones. What’s important is to remember that we’re still learning and to take things slow. Take your time when dealing with your health and needs. “You’re never alone like you think, ” said Robinson. 

“I heard some people hollar ‘Juneteenth!’ saying, we’ve been free. Even though they took our shackles off, we ain’t been released yet. Mental manipulation that still plagues and haunts our nation. As people, we won’t be free until our minds have been awakened. History repeats. Well this time around let’s help one another each. Poor love into your mind and the media you seek” Jacob Bridges, spoken word poet.