July 2019 - Linda Riggins

What is the injustice here? 

One injustice is that there has been little challenge within and outside the minority culture to challenge the position that: people of color (black folk) do not discuss mental health challenges because it equates with inappropriately putting family business in the streets.  A second, equally important, injustice to note is that there seems to be a breakdown in the powerful position that faith has held for minority communities. The injustice and the detrimental effect are very subtle, evidenced by hushed tones and ‘cover-up’ language when a mental illness situation surfaces at ‘church’ – as with times when ‘pass the buck’ occurs when someone is brave enough to consider involving the pastor.

What is your role or experience?

My experience has been to use humor or creative word choice when the huge challenge of mental illness fronts my safe spaces; hence, I have recently exclaimed that much ‘brain flu’ exists in my family.  As a black mama, I am familiar with the super woman syndrome. Yes, I have encountered enormous stress from others and my own stress, even depression. My experience has shifted from going with the established flow of keep family foolishness, excuse me, family challenges private --- to identify the challenge and call it what it is: substance dependence; anxiety; post traumatic stress, etc. And get the appropriate resources.  The best way to move forward and change my experience with minority mental health challenges has been to stifle silence.  I am very confident in my role as advocate for youth mental health.  Mental illness has contributed to the breakdown, even destruction, of families.  I am very committed to working toward family preservation for myself and others, especially minority families.  I exercise my role as family preservation advocate by supporting collaborative efforts that encourage awareness and action such as research efforts and community events, also addressing helpful changes, even at policy level, at education and faith-based institutions.  My most natural and eternal role/experience has been supporting my husband, our two adult and two adolescents off springs, and myself with various mental health challenges such as ADHD, anxiety, and various forms of depression.


How has creativity or art brought reconciliation for you or this injustice? 

Words on Paper – has been a life-giving source of hope for me as I am thriving through various Mental Health challenges among people, I engage daily.

I have several poems and a few short stories that communicate the emotional elements of Mental Health and Mental Illness.  I strive to secure sharing opportunities, hoping that others will experience comfort, relief, joy, revelation, reconciliation, etc… through my words on paper.  The ultimate goal is that the reader or hearer will find themselves or a loved one in my written/verbal expressions.  

Some favorite titles:

WILLOW

Such a Temper Tantrum Woman

Wayward

Young Male

Respite

What is one practical way you want people to get involved?

Support the National Alliance of Mental Illness: www.nami-wake.org (919) 848-4490

Encourage African American Churches and businesses and schools and other Minority Organizations to get facilitators trained.

Talk about it to others.

Membership.

Attend education events.

Donate cash and space for meetings.

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Linda Riggins is an advocate for healthy families. She enjoys quiet times at home reading and writing.  

Thanks so much for your time and your insight Linda. Below I have included Linda’s poem, WILLOW, that inspired the art for this piece. Enjoy!

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WILLOW

Root.

sway with   that   that  moves

Within

trauma happens                        s  w  a  y

be grounded

Breath

in body

fully present,

a vivid

Presence

roots

wind shifts?

Stability

Willow Woman