Mental Health Reading List #4

Happy Wednesday. Do a dance or whatever. 

The good news is that we're a few days away from another weekend. The bad news is the coochie-grabbing Tangerine Terrorist aka Dumpsterheart Daddy aka The One-Man Cheeto Shitshow aka Papa Mongrel is still a thing and not part of some long, disastrous SNL sketch. You can't win 'em all. Unless you're Janelle Monáe, who cannot lose.

Anyhow, because feelings and emotions and all that stuff are among my favorite non-chicken things to discuss, here's an assemblage of mental health-related essays, articles, interviews, marvelous podcasts, resources, and such for inspiration, education, enlightenment, and getting your mind right on your company's time. 

Your therapist is not there to be your best friend or tell you everything you want to hear.
Given the intimate nature of the client-therapist relationship and the private things you’ll share with your therapist, bonding and developing a warm rapport are natural. Sure, be friendly, cuss like hell and relate over hot comb horror stories. But avoiding a distracting level of personal involvement will help prevent conflicts and confusion about the nature (and limits) of your relationship. Your therapist is providing a service, not working to be the Pam to your Gina.

  • Episode 11: "You Good, Man?"  [The Extraordinary Negroes] 

In this episode, fan favorite and National Suicide Prevention Program Director for the U.S. Department of Defense Nickolas Gaines joins us to discuss Kid Cudi's statement about checking himself into rehab for depression and suicidal thoughts, the pervasiveness and treatment of mental health issues (among Black folks), and much more. Additionally, we discuss the renaissance of great Black television and the controversy around Nate Parker and "The Birth of a Nation."

  • "How Gaps In Mental Health Care Play Out In Emergency Rooms" by Shefali Luthra [NPR]

Compared with physically ill patients, people with mental health conditions rely more on the emergency department for treatment and are more often admitted to the hospital from the ER, the scientists found. Also, they tended to be stuck in the ER longer than people who show up in the ER with physical symptoms.

  • "Patton Oswalt: 'I'll Never Be At 100% Again'" by Jason Zinoman [NY Times]

As serious fans of his comedy know, Mr. Oswalt has suffered from depression, but this, he said, was far worse. “Depression is more seductive,” he said. “Its tool is: ‘Wouldn’t it be way more comfortable to stay inside and not deal with people?’ Grief is an attack on life. It’s not a seducer. It’s an ambush or worse. It stands right out there and says: ‘The minute you try something, I’m waiting for you.’”

  • "If Black Men Want to Heal Racism’s Wounds, We Can’t Pretend to Be Strong All the Time" by Mychal Denzel Smith [The Nation]

Every day, I was lying to people. Responding to a “How are you?” with “I’m fine” was enough to satisfy most people. The more I lied, the more I wanted to believe the lie—and the less I could. Every time I said I was fine, I saw myself dying. Sometimes I saw myself intentionally crashing my car. Sometimes I saw myself jumping from a tall building, frightened and free, feeling the wind beneath me.

  • Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on how he overcame his depression. [Mateusz M]

  • "A Growing List Of Black Mental Health Resources" by Melissa Kimble [EBONY]

We know that opening up about mental health issues can save a life. While the stigma around the issue can often be swept under the rug in our communities, we are proud to know that there are institutions, organizations and individuals who are committed to helping us with this internal battle.
In honor of #WorldMentalHealthDay, we’ve complied a list of Black owned and focused mental health resources.



Saint Damita Jo Jackson, First of Her Name, She Who Made Rhythm Nation, Dancebreak Slayer, and The Wide-Leg Pants Empress Don Diva, is with child. Nothing was the same.

There is still time to get your life in order.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming:

  • "Delonte West, Mental Health, and Royce White’s Unpublished Letter to the NBA," by Dave Zirin [The Nation]

This is a deeply distressing situation. It also raises the question about what responsibility the NBA has for the mental health of its current and recently retired players. Did Delonte West have access to psychiatric help as a player? And more importantly, was it made clear that any effort to receive mental-health assistance would not reflect negatively on his opportunities in the league? 

  • "This Documentary Is A Vital Look At Black Mental Health In The U.K.," by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff [The Fader]

When it comes to mental health, there's often a lack of understanding. It’s trying to treat an African problem with a white person’s manual. We are very different. In the film, I pressed on the idea of focusing on religion, because I’ve seen the situation where a lot of African churches will push people away from [medical] help. They’ll tell people, “Pray, pray, pray." But I think to myself, You can’t pray away schizophrenia. This person might have bipolar [disorder]. They might need medication. Don’t get me wrong, I know that people need prayer too — but there should be a balance.

  • "Kid Cudi, Kehlani and the pervasive sexism surrounding mental health," by Sandra Song [Paper Mag]

However, unlike Cudi, Kehlani was subject to incessant online harassment, made into a recurring joke and told she was hamming it up after her post. She wasn't, and still hasn't been, afforded a fraction of the public support Kid Cudi has accumulated since he bravely shared his note (and undoubtedly saved lives) on Tuesday. In fact, her trauma has resurfaced as yet another joke in the wake of this huge conversation about treatment and self-care.

  • "Depression feels like decay in real time," by Anthony J. Williams [Medium]

Everyday is a new day. I miss not worrying this frequently. I miss being able to let go more easily. I miss not being in bed all the time. This. Shit. Is. Hard. I’m aware that I need to be more gentle with myself. Yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I’m getting better at asking for help and speaking for my needs. But sometimes I don’t know what I need. And sometimes I just want to sleep.

Have an article, interview, event, video, or other mental health-related content I should know about? Send it our way, please and thank you. 

You're so pretty.

Previous reading lists:

Mental Health Reading List #1
Mental Health Reading List #2
Mental Health Reading List #3

New York City-based food-lover Alexander Hardy is the dance captain for Saint Damita Jo Jackson’s royal army and co-host of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. He is an essayist, freelance copywriter, cultural critic, chicken enthusiast, lupus survivor, mental health advocate and educator who has written for, Eater, Courvoisier, Esquire, The Root, CNN, Gawker, The Huffington Post, Saint Heron, and Very Smart Brothas, among other wonderful outlets. When not writing on, he enjoys cheese grits, power naps, sweet tea, and all things chicken-related. Alexander does not believe in snow or Delaware. More Alex: The Colored Boy | Twitter | Instagram | Writing Portfolio | Mental Health Work

The Extraordinary Reading List #1

Being an Extraordinary Negro is no easy feat. It takes hard work, cocoa butter, and a masterful and lifelong avoidance of bland food, the ER, and wigs by Tyler Perry’s wigmaker. Passion, curiosity, and boldness help, too. Merely being predisposed to sickle cell and police brutality does not a winner make. You gotta scheme scheme, plot and plot your individual path to greatness, up out of the land of mediocrity. One way to get your greatness on: eating fried chicken skin reading. Like analingus, reading is relaxing, educational, entertaining, and, in some cases, inspirational. Here are a few of our favorite books. Go forth and enlighten thyself.

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson – I was first intimidated by this book’s size (622 pages), but once I started, I couldn’t step away. Wilkerson tells the story of The Great Migration and the Second Great, the mass exodus of Black folks out of the land of Jim Crow and hateful, unmoisturized whitefolks still salty about Emancipation to the West, Northeast, and Midwest United States between 1915 and 1970. She gorgeously weaves all of that together with the life stories of three chocolately wonders escaping melanin envy and institutional hateration in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Florida by relocating up yonder. Away from the Salty Sams and Hateful Helens. It’s the best book I read in 2015. Get it here. (Alex)

Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin – The phrase “The Black Man is God” was created to exalt our Lord and savior King Baldwin. Good luck convincing me otherwise. Dude was a beast with the pen and this collection of essays is some of his greatest work. You’re welcome in advance. Get it here. (Jay)

The Sellout by Paul Beatty – I had seen and heard people reference Paul Beatty never sought out more información. When writerly superthug Kiese Laymon reviewed The Sellout and sang his praises for the LA Times, I finally cartwheeled over to Amazon for a copy. This was my first time reading Beatty’s work, but after the first line, I understood. There were a handful of moments that had me crylaughing by myself on the train. Thank me later. Get it here. See also: The White Boy Shuffle, and Tuff. (Alex)

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander – America never declared a war on drugs, it declared war on people of color. And Michelle Alexander is kind enough to devote a little over 300 pages to deconstructing exactly how and why it transpired. Prepare to be amazed and infuriated. Get it here. For extra credit, here’s a study guide. (Jay)

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz – Here, a chubby Dominican science fiction and fantasy novel obsessor searches for love and acceptance while dealing with Fuku, a multigenerational curse he believes is haunting his family. A few pages into this damn book, I had to close it, sit it down, and process. I heard good things about the book, but I wasn’t prepared to be simultaneously seduced and kicked in the face by such brilliance. I love his use of Spanish and the many wonderful newly coined words. Junot makes me want to be a better writer. Get it here. See also: Junot’s This Is How You Lose Her. (Alex)

The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – If you’ve spent your entire natural life aspiring to be 50 Cent, this is the book for you. Bulging biceps and bullet wounds sold separately. Get it here. (Jay)

What Is The What by Dave Eggers – This book is a whirlwind. It tells the life story of Valentino Achak Deng, who was forced from his village at seven and faces lion, soldiers, and starvation en route, along with thousands of other refugees, to camps in Kenya and Ethiopia…before coming to America to face more horror and heartbreak. It’s called a novel, but it’s Deng’s life as told to Eggers, a powerful storyteller. What you’ll get: gripping writing, some historical context about the Sudanese civil war, and sadness that there’s not more to read. Get it here. See also: A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, also by Dave Eggers. Another favorite. (Alex)

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – This dude is the undisputed greatest essayist of our time. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a bold faced liar or can’t get out their feelings long enough to see past their own melanin-deficiency. The big homie drops nothing but gems about growing up Black in America. One day I would love to craft something like this for my own son. Get it here. (Jay)

James Baldwin: Collected Essays by James Baldwin – I read Baldwin (If Beale Street Could Talk) in high school, but wasn’t ready to receive the gospel at the time. I’ve read essays and excerpts and watched him pulverize misguided whitefolk, but hadn’t had a forreal Uncle Jimmy moment as an adult until this spring, when I swallowed Go Tell It On The Mountain on the train. But this book? Twas like direct deposit hitting your account again and again and again. It felt like watching Serena be Serena on the court. A masterpiece. He painted astoundingly vivid pictures and, with a gorgeous vocabulary and as many modifiers as it took, opined on the world and all the beauty and horror in it. Essentially, it’s a how-to on writing and social commentary. Ever highlighted an entire page of text? I have. I also wrote about our first fling for Very Smart Brothas. Get it here. (Alex)


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey – Don’t let the fact that I grew up not to do jack shit with my life deter you from this exceptional read. Be better than me. Get it here. (Jay)

If you haven’t yet, get Luvvie Ajayi’s new book, I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual, which we discussed with her on episode 7.

Fore more book-loving wonderfulness and fellowship, Alex has a book club situation on Facebook called Miss Celie’s Book Club. Holler.