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During the 2021 ESSENCE Wellness House, we heard from two Black women who know firsthand how challenging it can be to manage your mental health as a member of the military.

Army Veteran and Beauty Influencer Leslie Latrice, along with Army Veteran and Best-Selling Author Lila Holley joined ESSENCE Associate Editor D’Shonda Brown to share their personal experiences on the topic, exploring the intersectionality of what it’s like to be Black, a woman and a solider.

“I didn’t have women, Black women especially, to my left and to my right to have as confidants or mentors so, I had to fit into a group of individuals that didn’t look like me,” Lila said. “In addition to that, I set these very high standards for myself in order to fit into that club. I always tell people this about my experience: when I walk into a staff room, first they’re going to see a woman, then they’re going to see a Black woman, and then they will finally see my rank after all those layers process.”

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When asked how Black women in the military can hold their superiors and personnel accountable, Leslie encouraged her fellow female soldiers to speak up whenever they feel it’s necessary.

“Use your voice and tell them when things don’t work, and what things do. Not just the things that don’t, but what things are working for you,” she said. “Also, take those surveys that come to us and utilize the reporting procedures that we have in place to advocate for yourself. Tell somebody what you need so that they can find the resources to help you. I think using your voice for that will not only help you, but it’ll help people down the line who may not have that voice to speak up for themselves when the situation arises.”

Watch the full conversation in the video above. For more of everything you missed at ESSENCE Wellness House, click HERE.

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