Smiling Black woman, wears cross necklace, hair pulled back

The Burden of Working Hard

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By Cienna Buchan

My sister Tayana is one of the most incredible people to have influence my life. She holds this constant positivity and strength that makes me wonder sometimes if I myself can even be classified as confident.

However, being 7 years her senior, I’ve also had the honor to witness her sensitivity and compassion through difficult times and how she grows through each new experience. Being a Black Lesbian, she’s had to face extreme intersectionality. But, being a Black Lesbian in a white family tends to attract the unwanted negative attention of some people. It also put a lot of unneeded pressure on her. Especially during her high school experience.

I knew I had to work hard for things because I’m already a few steps behind.

Tayana Buron

When discussing the topic of how she felt going to a majority white High School, she stated, “I knew I had to work hard for things because I’m already a few steps behind.” I had never heard her say this out loud before and it made my heart twinge with a sharp empathetic pang. It shifted the course of our conversation to a more direct issue, what can be done to help better the mental health of Black youths in High Schools.

One of the largest adolescent groups that need this support are those who come from lower-income families and are struggling with homelessness. “When I was in middle school, my family lived in shelters most of the time. It sucked because you can only stay in one for 3 months and then you have to pick up and move to the next one. It’s just not something people think about because they’ve never been in that spot.”

Approximately half of all people who are homeless struggle with mental health issues and close to 25% of people who are homeless have serious mental health disorders, including chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. (Walz & Bleuer 2013) 

Schools often offer support for counseling services, but what about additional mental health services to adolescents suffering from these additional weights to carry?

“Sometimes it was just a lot to handle and I needed someone to understand there were other things on my plate than a quiz or test.”

She’s absolutely right, there need to be people there to help. Let’s put her plate in perspective, this is an adolescent student dealing with racism, sexism, judgment against her sexuality, and homelessness. This is far too much to carry for one person while trying to rise above and create a better life for themselves.

There needs to be help provided to these students in order to avoid this feeling of being behind. It could lead to better performance in students and overall continued dedication to education.

I have watched Tayana be able to overcome her plate and achieve her every goal, learning how to make a place for herself in this world and go on to study at Oakland University.

People sometimes go through life thinking they understand another individual’s perspective but ask yourself, who is that individual? What makes their perspective different than yours other than being someone else? Are they a different age, sexuality, race, gender? Are they disabled?

It’s our responsibility as humans to understand just how massive the differences are between you and others and be aware of this as we learn and go through life. If there are any Marvel nerds out there, you’ll know Stan Lee once said “A hero is someone who is concerned about other people’s well-being, and will go out of his or her way to help them—even if there is no chance of a reward. That person who helps others simply because it should or must be done, and because it is the right thing to do, is true without a doubt, a real superhero.”

Going out of your way doesn’t always mean performing a physical action, although yeah do that too, but another part of it is mentally dedicating the time to look at a situation from multiple perspectives. It’s at this time that we can learn how to find solutions and help improve issues of diversity across the world.

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