Growing up in Los Angeles, my identity was something I rarely considered. Constantly being around black and brown folks gave me a sense of protection and comfort that was unique to the community I surrounded myself with. Moving to Oregon was a huge adjustment for me on several levels, but the biggest was that I had to become comfortable being the only black voice in the room. Being black in a white space causes pressure, stress, and sometimes awkwardness that affects my mental wellbeing. To this day, I still find myself in situations where I feel tokenized or asked to speak on behalf of all black folks based on how I look. It is never a good feeling to be called upon as a black spokesperson.
As a child, mental health was not something discussed in my household and only briefly touched upon in school. I wanted to pursue an education and professional career in mental health to advocate for breaking mental health stigma, especially in the black community. Using tools, trainings, and my own lived experiences, I feel very comfortable supporting my family, friends, and peers with whatever struggles they may be going through.
Over time, I have connected on a deeper level with my family and friends in a way that I would not have imagined as a child. Being black comes with a large amount of emotional work, which is sometimes hard to recognize. Conversations about mental health and the challenges we go through should not be taboo but rather normalized. There is beauty in being vulnerable and open about our experiences. The more open we are about sharing our experiences, the easier it is to uplift and support one another.
– Jordan Caines, YouthLine Assistant Director of Education & Outreach