Children Health

African-American Children’s Mental Health Journey | by Dr. Mercedes Samudio, LCSW | AfroNerd Insights | Mar, 2024

TL;DR: Follow me along my journey with mental illness, which is, sadly, compounded by the challenges of racism and systemic oppression as an African American woman. Oh, and I acknowledge the complex interplay between being a researcher and a subject in this context. Oh, joy!

This is an image of a joyful portrait of an African American woman with locs, laughing against a pink gradient background adorned with stars and hearts, with stickers that read “I’m proud of my healing” and depict a stack of books with hearts.

I’ve lived with a mental illness for most of my life. I use the term illness because it’s how I have come to conceptualize the set of symptoms that I have lived with and learned to manage since I was a preteen. Along with the trauma I sustained, living with these symptoms has been compounded by the unrelenting racism and oppression I face as an African American woman. As a preteen, my symptoms were discarded as attempts for attention and solutions were thrown at me, like washrags into the laundry. Learning firstly that demons weren’t tormenting me (as my Christian and horror movie upbringing led me to believe), then realizing that there was language for what I was experiencing, and finally embracing being a human who lives with a mental illness. There’s no diagnosis, but as I heal and learn to use language to navigate my own story (who knows, I might even change the way I say mental illness over time), and as a way for me to allow my process to evolve.

That being said, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions being the research that you are researching. Knowing that I was part of the epidemic of ignored and dismissed mental health of a whole generation, only to realize that this dismissal was part of the systemic dismissal of marginalized voices, has been equally exhausting and exhilarating. While I appreciate my intimate, reflective, courageous relationship with my research, I lament the tight closeness that comes with knowing that you’ve been forgotten so long you’ve got to convince people you’re here.

But, alas, I existentially sit at the intersections: academic and statistic, clinician and client, visible and invisible, bright and dull, and most of all, here being and absently present. The following is a glimpse into my research, work, passion, and, honestly, a peek into who I am.


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