Minority Mental Health Advocate: Dom Chatterjee
"Stay fiercely honest and unapologetic." -Dom
Tell us about the work you do and how you got started.
I founded QTPoC Mental Health in March 2015 after a year-long breakdown brought on by resurfacing trauma, and instead of getting support and compassion from the people around me at that time, I was abused in multiple ways. This led me to realize that community had never functioned, or even really existed, in my life. A lot of people were unable to validate my experiences based on identity, which at the time shocked me. So in an actively suicidal manic state, I decided to try to figure out what community was, what real support feels like, as a last-ditch effort to save my life. Much to my surprise, that harebrained plan actually worked thanks to how many incredible people I've met on this path of creating peer support spaces.
Desperation got me started; gratitude and love keep me going. And the movement to create emotional support resources by and for queer & trans people of color just keeps growing because of so many of us, myself included, need support that existing systems of care don't currently provide. However, we do it all – hosting meditations, facilitating online groups, distributing resources & publishing original content – without enough resources or financial stability and always need help!
Why does minority mental health matter to you?
I tried to speak about being shut out of the mental health system for about a decade before I found the words. Although I'm still broken up about it in many ways, naming various forms of oppression – namely racism, queerphobia, ableism – has been incredibly healing for me. I no longer blame myself for the support I haven't received, whereas before I felt broken because psychiatry doesn't have solutions that work for me, leaving me to fend for myself with bipolar 1, OCD, PTSD, and more.
What would you tell your younger self?
Stay fiercely honest and unapologetic. When I was a teenager, I thought that if I spoke about bipolar disorder without shame, somehow the stigma wouldn't get to me. And that's unfortunately not how my life played out, but I'm still so proud of my younger self for trying. Looking back, I see that as a courageous act of self-love.