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Brandon Johnson

Creator, The Black Mental Wellness Lounge/Public Health Advisor, US Dept of Health and Human Services.

So, my journey to become a mental health professional really started with growing up in Baltimore City. I grew up in West Baltimore and there were so many things I saw people experience on a day to day basis that were related to trauma. It is a challenging place to grow up even though it's a really beautiful city to be a part of. I saw so many issues with violence, poverty, a poor school system and I really noticed the impact it had on other people. As I grew up and became more aware of the challenges, I really wanted to get involved with helping people manage the trauma and distress that they experienced when being faced with these challenges, witnessing violence, losing people to violence, and some of the other stressors that people had just being Black. I thought that getting a degree in psychology, and working in mental health, would be a great way to help me give back to my community. I had no idea that I would be entering into the suicide prevention field at the time, but it's been such a blessing to be a part of.

I am most passionate about suicide prevention and mental health for our kids. Another area that I am very passionate about is trauma, especially for black people. Also, the impact of racism and discrimination on the mental health of black people. Suicide prevention is an area where our black kids are really starting to struggle and so many people have ignored this area for so long. There are increased depression rates and rates of anxiety among our youngest children between the ages of five and 12 and increases in suicide attempts among our adolescent black youth between the ages of 13 and 17. This is a major issue in our community and one that we don't talk about enough. There is starting to be some attention to it and some resources being created but not nearly enough is being done and not enough of it is being talked about in the community.

In my position and a lot of my work is really centered on making this more of an issue that our community is equipped to combat and figuring out how to create effective interventions to help our young Black youth to manage a world filled with hate, racism, and general life difficulties. Trauma is one that impacts each and everyone of us at some point in our lives. A big part of trauma prevention, for me, is centered around violence prevention. My job is to work with people to understand how trauma impacts their minds, their decisions, and the behaviors that they make also. I’ve dedicated my life to these issues, particularly as it pertains to Black people.

The biggest thing I want people to know about mental health is to actually consider it and to monitor it as they are going through life. For so many years we have neglected our own mental health and have prioritized other things in it's place. We are very conscious of our physical health and how our physical health is impacting the rest of our body. Our mental health is just as important as our mental health and is very much connected to our physical health. Remember to take breaks when you're feeling overwhelmed . It is important for us to rest and recover and not to continue to push ourselves beyond what we feel we can do. If we are feeling sad and depressed, it's important for us to connect with someone who is able to help us, particularly a licensed clinical therapist.

Therapy is such an important tool for each of us to deal with the challenges that we face in life. It is also important that we take care and monitor the mental health of the young people in our lives. We often, as adults, think that young people don't go through things or don't have it

as bad as we do. However, many kids have even more challenges than we do on a day to day basis in dealing with academics, school, relationships, family and friends. They are just forming all of their thoughts and their brains are not fully developed so things that may roll off of our backs may [greatly impact them]. It is so crucial for us to create safe spaces for our kids to talk and share about the things that they're feeling and experiencing. Mental health has to be more of a priority for each and everyone of us and it's something that should be a focus point of us in our lives.

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