Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Ihunanya Muruako, Black Mental Wellness Intern
Ihunanya Muruako was born in Cleveland, OH and raised in the Cleveland metropolitan area. She currently resides in Ann Arbor, MI where she is pursuing her B.A. in Community and Global Public Health at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.
All her life, her health and the healthcare she receives has always been an important part of her life. Physicals were never missed, recommendations from her dentist were always taken into consideration, and seasonal colds and coughs were always taken very seriously. Growing up in close proximity to Cleveland Clinic while also receiving care from its providers quickly influenced her career aspirations. For as long as she can remember, Ihunanya knew she wanted to one day be one of the many healthcare practitioners in a system helping people gain access to and receive the top quality care she received growing up.
Living in close proximity to the Clinic’s main campus also offered her a privilege not many Black people throughout the city had: understanding her provider. Ihunanya recalls, “The first time that I was ever admitted into the hospital, I remember the doctor using complex terminology that I was able to understand because of my educational background and research experience, but this would’ve been very complex for the average 17 year-old. I was also at an advantage as my mom was one of the Cleveland Clinic’s many registered nurses.
Experiencing the inability of many of my doctors to use understandable terminology shocked me. I was left to make sense out of their many diagnoses and medical orders. At many times I also felt that the doctors lacked the empathy to help me through my traumatic hospitalization.” This instance highlighted the failure of medical systems to be responsive to the identities of their patients that can hinder how they understand and receive their healthcare and diagnoses.This experience fueled Ihunanya’s aspirations to improve the fractured health policies and healthcare systems that do more harm than good to this country.
Following graduation, Ihunanya plans to pursue her Masters Degree in Public Health. Ihunanya has many interests that include learning about and working with racial relations and socialization, advocating for public health and healthcare reform, and fighting for the rights of Black people. Ihunanya’s future career goal is to ultimately improve the quality of care and health outcomes of Black people throughout the Diaspora.
In her spare time, Ihunanya enjoys traveling, spending time with loved ones, and watching reality television. She is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and serves as president of her collegiate chapter.
What does Black Mental Wellness mean to you?
To me, Black Mental Wellness is a way to ensure that our future generations will be better off than we are. It’s a form of preservation of ourselves, our family members, and us as Blacks. Most importantly, it’s a mindset. The mind is a powerful thing and impacts how we are perceived and act towards the outside world. When you truly feel good on the inside, that is when you reach a state of wellness.
Black Mental Wellness is beneficial to me because as a college student, school is stressful and I may not always have time to seek out the care I need. Black Mental Wellness gives me the resources and information I need to keep myself going. Good health and good mental health is a lifetime journey and I love that Black Mental Wellness appeals to the entire community regardless of age or gender.
Tell us about your educational and/or professional training, and current area of expertise related to mental health and wellness?
I’m currently an undergraduate student and will be entering my third year at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health where I am majoring in Community and Global Public Health. After I finish school, I hope to go into health policy work primarily focusing on human rights, Black people’s access and quality of healthcare, and maternal and infant health.
How can we encourage more people to seek mental health treatment?
I think the most important step, especially among us as Black individuals, is to understand that it is okay to not be okay all the time. The biggest strain we put on ourselves and our mental health is lying to ourselves by convincing ourselves that we are fine, when we are far from it. We are expected to take every blow that comes our way and it’s completely human to at some point throw in the towel and ask for help.
Do you have an experience with seeking mental health treatment that you would like to share with the Black Mental Wellness audience?
During the 1st semester of my second year in college, I reached a point where I realized that I wasn’t okay and needed someone to simply listen to me. I had been going through a rough time emotionally and mentally for a few months and realized my tactics of pushing everything to the back of my mind and putting on a smile was no longer working. After two months of therapy, I realized that the biggest favor I could ever do for myself was taking care of myself. It’s important for people to understand that therapy isn’t a sign of weakness. We need to view therapy as a way of taking care of yourself the same way you take care of yourself by visiting your doctor when you think you have symptoms of the flu.