Mental Health On My Block: How Netflix’s latest show is changing the narrative around Mental Health

Curator's Note

On My Block follows four friends as they navigate the increasing violence in their neighborhood while trying to excel at school, relationships, and family loyalty. Although this show is fiction, it mirrors many aspects of the lives of those who live in neighborhoods that resemble the one on the show. In its second season, On My Block is touching on yet another important topic: mental health.

Through Ruby’s actions, we see someone who is trying to pretend that he is okay because he survived, people in his neighborhood get shot and are killed all the time. He is allowing his surroundings to dictate how he is coping and processing this trauma. It is hard to process depression if you do not have the language for it; however, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. And Jasmin, somewhat of a peripheral character, begins to help Ruby understand this. The rest of his friends support him, but they also do not have the language for what is happening.

They use phrases like “it is okay not to be okay” and “we understand,” and these phrases do allow viewers to see that these teenagers are aware of the nuances that they are facing despite lacking the clinical terminology for it. And that stands to be true for many children and teenagers.

Seeing Black and Brown young people navigate such complicated feelings is really important, and it is great that Netflix decided to have this show. Depression affects everyone differently, and traumatic experiences are things that often trigger it. If we are not talking about it then we are not doing anything to advocate for change in the care and treatment of mental health. There are vast disparities in how minorities are treated when they are suffering from mental health disorders.

The conversations that these characters are having slowly begin to tear down stigmas surrounding mental health in Black and Brown men. Even though everything around you may seem tough, that does not mean that there isn’t room for “soft” and less aggressive emotions and actions. This show is allowing for conversations to be started on social media, in living rooms, and even among groups of friends about how our environments can affect our mental health. Shows like this create space for others to feel less alone and freer to share their experience, and at least to talk about it if not to seek professional help.

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