Memoirs of Mental Health: Jenifer Lewis

I’ve always wanted to write on the topic of Black mental health stigma but never had the courage. Today, I’m excited to share some insights that I gained from a memoir that I couldn’t help but share with y’all.

Jenifer Lewis is most recently known for her role as the sarcastic (and hilarious!) grandma Ruby on the TV show, Blackish. As a memoir junkie (seriously, I learn so much from reading about the lives of others), I listened to Lewis’ book, The Mother of Black Hollywood on audiobook. While the book was about her life and career, I was thrilled to hear that she tackled the topic of mental health and its pervasive stigma in the Black community throughout the book.

In my work as a therapist, I continue to be shocked at how discussions of mental illness, therapy, and psychiatric services are significantly less prevalent among African Americans, especially Black men.

Lewis has become an advocate for Black mental health by being vocal about her lifelong struggle with bipolar disorder. She talks about how she’s been seeing a therapist for decades, her skepticism about psychotropic medication, and even about how going off her medications (against medical advice) has led to some manic episodes in the past.

I will conclude with some noteworthy quotes from the book that inspired me as I reflected on the stigma among people of color related to mental health:

  • “You can’t help nobody that ain’t ready to be helped.”

  • “I live with bipolar disorder and I thrive.”

  • “If you need therapy, get it!”

  • “If an appropriately prescribed medication will help you: Get the damn medication!”

*Disclaimer: Lewis’ book is written for mature audiences.

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