• La Shawn L. Splane-Wilburn, Founder of Homagi

National Caregiver Month 2021: Honoring the Culture of Caregiving

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

It’s National Caregiver Month and our theme for 2021 is #HonoringTheCultureOfCaregiving

Raising awareness for the unique challenges of Black Mental Health Family Caregivers is an ongoing goal for us. So often what we face outside of the common challenges of the stigmas surrounding mental illness, and the limited resources for mental health are glossed over or not mentioned at all. That erasure is harmful.

Having a space, a safe space for us to discuss what our experiences are is very important. Honoring our similarities to other caregivers as well as our cultural and community specific challenges is very important to our survival.

The history of our ancestors is rich and full of community. It took great adaptation and resilience to keep a community of families together under extreme conditions, and must have come at great cost to many.

The women and men who learning to properly care for the sick and wounded, many times, building families outside of their nuclear families; as their families were forcefully separated. Family members sold off and never to be seen again.

The psychological impact of familial separation coupled with brutal and oppressive conditions on plantations meant men, women, and children needed to depend on the psychological resilience those who had the ability to cope with the reality, AND be a voice of hope. A voice of calm when the impact and reality of the conditions our ancestors lived under was too much.

Extreme conditions like those our ancestors faced aren’t part of our reality today, but we do face a good deal of the systemic and structural factors, still in place. Still presenting barriers to family health, unity, and contentment.

A lack of resources for us today, pale in comparison to those our ancestors faced, but the impact is still felt.

A realization of the disparities that still exist in our communities has been placed front and center, as the pandemic exposed how vulnerable our communities, Black communities really are.

At a time where equity and equality are the trending topics, and DEI(Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) are the new banner flying outside of “institutions” with new awareness of their contributions to health disparities in our communities. We still find ourselves on the short end of the solutions.

There’s a shortage of our challenges and barriers to wellbeing left out of discussions during national caregiver month. We find images of people who look like us on websites, and blogs, with an occasional “mention” of “Black caregivers” facing a shortage of support and resources. A couple of vague studies, some by persons who were giving projections versus actually including, polling Black caregivers. Introducing Mental Health caregiving to the equation, and the limited topics of discussion for white caregivers becomes, virtually nonexistent for Black caregivers in comparison.

This year we raised the question about disparities within our communities, especially in healthcare, with experiences of caregiving and the influence of racism and medical bias, to the point of our mortality rates going way up.

A campaign called “Don’t Mute The Caregiver”

exposed the many ways in which healthcare professionals, and workers, are missing the opportunity to tap into the wealth of resources caregivers contribute. It also exposed the ways in which the healthcare system is failing caregivers and their loved ones, due to the “one size fits all approach. Blanket research, and faulty data.

This National Caregiver Month our goal is to have Black Mental Health Family Caregivers visible on a different level than just understanding how disparities negatively impact our lives. It’s to have you to feel seen. To reassure you that what you’re facing is indeed more difficult due to systemic and structural racism and medical bias.

The level of exposure that health disparities received as a result of the pandemic, is worldwide. The data, as limited as it still is, doesn’t lie. More hospitals, hospital accreditation institutions, and healthcare startups are focusing on “equity and inclusion”. This is the perfect time to discuss the impact that a truly equitable healthcare system could have on reducing burdens on our families.

We would love for you to share your experiences as a Black caregiver who supports a loved one with a mental illness, so that we can amplify your story, and partner with you to discuss how to best address these issues within our communities.

Happy National Caregiver Month!



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