Mental health: Improving the mind-body connection

BOSTON — Boston 25 News is launching a new initiative called “Boston 25 Gets Real,” digging into issues that are impacting members of our community, and introducing you to the people who are working to create change.

In our second report, Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes looks at the mind-body connection, especially in communities of color.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, African Americans are more likely to experience socioeconomic disparities such as exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources. These disparities may contribute to worse mental health outcomes.

Obesity medicine physician, Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford tells Boston 25 News reporter Crystal Haynes, breaking down those barriers is more important than ever before, with the coronavirus taking an especially hard toll on the mental health and mortality of people of color.

“If you have poor health status going in, it precludes you having optimum health status coming out of a pandemic and it’s really reared its ugly head,” said Dr. Stanford. “You want to look at the whole you. You want to look at diet and exercise and sleep and all of these factors that are playing a role in your overall health. If you are struggling with weight there are people like myself that are here to help you get to your best self.”

Researchers say access to other types of care, including medical specialists of color, leaves communities vulnerable to disease. In 2018, 11.5% of black adults in the U.S. had no form of health insurance.

Jaylee Momplaisir and Rachael Junard are looking to change negative outcomes by creating a wellness collective targeted to women of color looking for a mental, spiritual, and physical check-in.

“We talked about what it feels like to be the only one in the room. We talked about what we were seeing in corporate yoga setting,” said Momplaisir, “Which was, the devalue of people, the devalue of indigenous cultures and most importantly the devalue of diversity.””

“Money is the biggest issue,” says Junard. “That’s something we try to combat every event. We offer two scholarship tickets, first come, first serve. you don’t need to tell us why and historically people aren’t seen as going to therapists. Black people aren’t seen chanting and doing other aspects of mental health that are good for you.”

Heather White, the founder and owner of dance exercise studio Trillfit, says there’s a widespread diversity problem that exists in the boutique fitness industry including yoga, spin, and other group fitness.

“Typically we see skinny, super fit, bodybuilding white women and white men and if you don’t look like that you feel like you can’t have entry into these spaces. I created my own business because I didn’t see anybody who looked like me,” says White. She also adds, “As people of color we are a resilient group of people and we are told that we’re strong, we have to work twice as hard to get half as much and we’re often pushed so much harder than our white peers, I would say it’s okay to not be okay. It’s ok to take a break.”

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