Many people of color living with mental illness face stigma in public spaces. Because of a lack of general education around issues of mental health in the community at-large, many of these individuals are forced into the background and erased from the public psyche. However, Nigerian writer and artist, and founder of the Siwe Project, Bassey Ikpi, has been working to make space for folks living with mental illness. Her work as the creator of “No Shame Day” is meant to educate others, encourage those living with mental illness, and reduce the societal stigmas associated these diagnoses.
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (MMHM). Thus, Ikpi has worked to highlight the lived experiences of people of color, specifically Black people, living with mental illness during this month. She lives with Bipolar II Disorder, which she shared with Essence several years ago. While she has been open about her struggles, she does not define herself by her diagnosis.
What Ikpi seeks to eradicate is the idea that folks have to live away from the public eye and the scrutiny and judgement of others. By living freely and on her own terms, she has made clear that she seeks to liberate others like her.
She told Essence:
“There’s no shame in what I and millions more like me have been through. And I hope to encourage others to speak up, hold their heads high – to let go of the stigmas and get help. Getting help takes strength. Staying healthy takes strength. Being here takes strength. Feeling good is your right. Fight for it.”
While many have shared their experiences across social media, Twitter erupted in support of #NoShameDay Monday.
The affirmation of Black folks with mental illness is a long overdue phenomena in public and social media. Let’s hope this trend continues indefinitely.
Jenn M. Jackson is the Editorial Assistant for The Black Youth Project. She is also the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Water Cooler Convos, a politics, news, and culture webmag for bourgie Black nerds. For more about her, tweet her at @JennMJack or visit her website at jennmjackson.com.