From Social Work to Mental Health Activism, What We Can Learn From Minaa B. on Healing
Tell us about who you are and what you do.
My name is Minaa B. and I am a licensed social worker, early childhood consultant and a mental health educator.
How did you get into social work? Was it something you always wanted to do?
I always had an interest in the field of human behavior and development because of my own struggles with both depression and suicide ideation. However, I always had a love for fashion and I originally wanted to become a fashion merchandiser. I decided to pursue my undergrad in business management, but during my time in college, my sociology professor who also happened to be a social worker inspired me and it truly transformed my interest in the field. Next thing I knew instead of getting my MBA, I went on to pursue my master’s in social work.
When and why did you decide to create your Instagram for mental health education and your book club, The Lit Social?
It pretty much happened by accident. I never intended on making my account this way, I just shared the things that were on my heart related to the social service field while also posting my favorite brunch photos, outfits of the day and my spontaneous hangouts. But overtime, my writings began to bring in so many people who would DM me and tell me how I helped inform their lives, or my vulnerability really helped them with their struggles and that’s when I decided to narrow my focus for that particular audience. My book club was pretty much inspired by my love for books. Reading is a huge part of my self-care and I really think it’s cool being able to be in community with other folks who enjoy a good novel just as much as I do.
What does a typical day look like for you right now?
I still work a regular job just like many folks, so during the week, my day is pretty full of work related obligations and when I come home I enjoy quiet time with myself and practicing self-care in order to get up the next day and do it all again. During my down time and on the weekends is when I focus on doing more entrepreneurial work like sponsorships, prepping for speaking engagements and doing the other things that are necessary for my personal brand.
You’ve said on Instagram that life has taught you that healing is a requirement. What does this look like for you? What’s in your self-care toolkit?
Healing for me means talking about my emotions, giving myself permission to feel my emotions, asking for help, being involved in community, challenging my negative thoughts and always being open to learning. All of these play a role in what’s in my self-care tool kit. I also make sure I have two friends that I can call when I need to talk. Taking myself out on dates because I’m worthy and this practice enforces that. Reading books that I love. Eating healthy. Working out. And having a good Saturday brunch with some friends.
What are the biggest misconceptions you hear in the mental health space?
Oh man, there are so many. I think the top thing that I hear is that mental health is an American issue, a white people issue and a laziness issue. All three are false and damaging and must be combatted so that those lies do not inform the work and keep people away from receiving services as well as taking care of themselves.
You must be willing to confront your wounds in order to heal them. When you see that people are suffering, how do you support them if they aren’t ready to face those wounds?
Support looks different for everybody, which is why I make it a habit to ask people what they need, instead of assuming that I know what they need. It’s okay if people aren’t ready to face their wounds, that’s totally normal and an expected trauma response. I believe in the practice of meeting people where they are, building rapport and trust, and showing them that I am here to listen, not to judge. This is how connections are formed and safe spaces are created.
Self-discovery is such an important process. What has that looked like for you? Have you always been introspective? What did the process look like to get where you are now?
I’ve always been introspective from what I can remember. I have always been someone who looked inward which is what brought me to the field of social work because I’ve always had an interest in examining who we are as people from the inside out, understanding our brains––how they function, and why we behave the way we behave. I grew up around so many different personalities, so I think that’s what made me like this because I always saw that everyone is not the same. I’ve always wondered why. I think play and imagination plays a vital role in this and I encourage people to explore that things to enhance their self-awareness.
I’ve found it really hard at times to not let feelings rule my life, and I’ve seen you talk about this with such wisdom. How do we give ourselves permission to feel our feelings, but not allow them to run the show?
Mindfulness is key here. Whenever I find myself getting riled up by my emotions, I take a few deep breaths and then I shift my mindset to focus on more positive things rather than negative. This work takes practice so I completely understand that it’s not easy, but it’s necessary. Often we react based off our emotions and end up with consequences later, which is why it’s important that we challenge our thoughts, have conversations about our thoughts and we learn through mindfulness how to combat those thoughts when they arise so that they don’t consume us.
What still challenges you? And how are you currently working through it?
I’m human, so to piggyback off the previous question sometimes managing my negative mind can be challenging. When I feel a negative emotion I tend to feel it in my body as well, I feel very tired and uninterested in doing certain things. I work through this by keeping my mind engaged and active. I talk to myself about how I’m feeling and then I engage in an activity to help with keeping my mind busy so that I don’t have time to ruminate and feel overwhelmed by thoughts that can’t produce anything good for me.
From your book club, or other reads, what books have most impacted your life?
My favorite book of all time is Between The World And Me by Ta-nehisi Coates, which tackles issues regarding racism toward black people, social justice and what it means to be black in America. On the fiction side, my favorite book is The Mothers by Brit Bennett. Both books are written by black authors and I can see a slice of myself in each book even though The Mothers is fiction. I always enjoy a good book that is not only relatable but insightful and gives me space to think about my life in certain ways after I finish reading it.
What’s next for you? What’re you excited about right now?
I’m excited about planning out 2020. I’ll be working on doing writing workshops for self-care and mental health so I’m currently creating the content for that. I am also looking forward to doing more speaking engagements at conferences and retreats.