Minaa B, Ashley Reese, Zeba Blay, and Angelica Jade Bastien (Photo: The Huffington Post)

Mental health is increasingly becoming a mainstream topic of conversation, both on TV and in real life. But those conversations don’t necessarily extend to everyone equally. So The Huffington Post brought together four black women writers for a roundtable discussion about mental illness and race. The writers who participated in the conversation are Minaa B, Ashley Reese, Zeba Blay, and Angelica Jade Bastién (we’ve previously linked to Bastién’s feminist analysis of American Psycho and her reexamination of Joan Crawford). The four women discuss identity, culture, and the difficulty of grappling with larger social injustices on a very personal level. Bastién writes:

I use pop culture to discuss these issues and how they affect my life. I’m not sure I could mentally handle writing about race, politics, and gender directly. Using film, television, and comics as a lens provides a bit of a buffer. But lately I have been fatigued by being so open about my struggles with bipolar disorder and anxiety. Which I used to discuss more openly on social media.

Sometimes I forget that the editors or people who don’t know me personally may take things the wrong way. I recently met with a writer/editor I’ve only known online when he came through Chicago and he said something that really got under my skin. I’m paraphrasing but it was something like, “You’re not as sad as I expected.” How is someone supposed to take that?

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The lengthy conversation touches on a whole bunch of different topics, including the way existing in a public space online intersects with both race and mental illness. Reese writes:

I don’t want to downplay the psychological toll that online negativity plays, but at the end of the day I’m thinking about who my writing helps… I’m thinking about who reached out to me to tell me that my writing meant something to them. I’m thinking about the people who let themselves be vulnerable for my consumption, and how their writing inspired me, helped me, made me want to be a better person. That’s what keeps me going. Maybe that’s what’s keeping all four of us going, in the end.

You can read the full roudtable at The Huffington Post.

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