The Truth About Black Women and Depression
By Jasmine L Bennett
Black women and depression: The “Strong Black Women” narrative has to end. We have feelings and they are valid.
Is it the way we were raised or is it in our DNA? We work hard. Love hard. Grind hard. Parent hard. We wear our 358 hats proudly. We’re mothers, entrepreneurs, bakers, chefs, singers, painters, we do it all. We are strong. We are tough. We can get through anything, so it seems.
Black women and depression: We do a lot. We do so much, that we sometimes forget to do for ourselves (I know I do). After taking care of everyone else for so long, we start ‘feeling some type a way’ about helping our family out. We begin to feel distant from the work that we used to be so passionate about. We cry in the bathroom at work. We hide from our friends on the weekends. We avoid family gatherings because we’re just not feeling ‘right’. We feel empty, tired, alone and afraid.
The truth is, it’s depression. And we’ve been dealing with it for a while now. It’s been plaguing our communities and hiding in our families for a long time. Depression has been silently hurting Black/African women for decades and we still haven’t had the courage (or the resources) to call it out and deal with it.
Black women and depression: We’ve been dancing around it (literally), avoiding talking about it and just confused about how to deal with it. Maybe it’s because we haven’t had time to deal with it. Between being a single mother, battling drug abuse, trying to make ends meet with a low paying job, we just can’t seem to get to it. Sometimes we don’t have health insurance, can’t find a therapist that gets us, and don’t really trust any medical professional. Not to mention those who are imprisoned. We have so many hurdles, it’s easier to say, “just be strong”.
Let me add that as Black/African American women we (1):
- Are more prone to depression than any other race or ethnicity
- Are the most undertreated group for depression in the US
- Have the highest percentage of single mothers at 72% (hint, no breaks)
- Attach stigma to seeking therapy or mental health services
Yes, we’re strong, but we’re not that strong. And sometimes depression seems stronger than us.
But we’re not gonna let it take us out like that.
Here are some ways you can stop acting strong, and start getting strong, for real:
Black Women and Depression
Go See A Therapist and/or Life Coach
You may not think no one understands you, but someone does. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but you need to go talk to someone. And you need to talk to someone that can help you in the right way. Find a therapist, life coach, wellness coach, mentor, someone that can help you with what you’re dealing with. I know that everyone woman is different and there are different programs and people that can help you the way you need it most. (Resources at the end of the article)
Go to the Doctor
Go get that check-up. I know that it may be difficult since (like I mentioned before) you may not have health insurance. There are programs to help you if you’re in a tough situation. And if you have health insurance, you just need to go see a doctor. It’s uncomfortable, yes. But once you go and make sure your body is functioning right (or not) you’ll be able to work with your doctor to create a plan to fix it.
Embrace Your Emotions
We were taught from a young age to be tough and not to let others see us cry. We had to ‘suck it up’ and take it no matter what. That way of thinking has lingered on throughout generations and has kept us bottled up and broken. We go through life believing that we just need to ‘tough it out’ and push down our pain until we can’t see it, even though it’s still there.
Crying is okay. Taking a moment to lean into your pain and feeling your hurt is okay. Let those emotions come up and find a way to healthfully deal with them (*hint, therapy or life coaching). You don’t have to keep ignoring and burying your feelings it’s okay to feel.
Know You’re Not Alone
There’s over 10 million of us in the U.S. alone, don’t ever think you’re by yourself. Out of 10 million women, I’m sure there is at least 1 other woman that can relate to you and understands what you’re going through. We all struggle mentally sometimes. No one is perfect, we all are still trying to figure life out. I don’t think anyone has gotten it completely right yet. We all make mistakes. We’re all healing and growing. Get into a good community of women (online or in person) so that you can see that you’re not alone and there are women ready to support you if you need it. (2)
Take a Break
You or others around you may think that you’re superwoman, but let me tell you: YOU ARE NOT. Yes, it may be tempting to think that you can do everything, go everywhere, and help everyone. But you are a human being and we don’t have those capabilities.
You need a break! You need to take a vacation! And I’m not talking about an expensive getaway to an island retreat (although if you can that would be amazing). You need to take a half an hour each day or more to just sit and do nothing. Take time to meditate, pray, and breathe deeply. Find some breathing exercises to do, find a yoga flow to do. Make time in the mornings or the evenings (or the middle of the day) to just stop, do nothing and breathe.
I know that battling depression is tough. Especially when there are obstacles to getting help. If you or someone you know needs some help, here are some people and organizations to check out for encouragement and support:
If you or someone you know are in an immediate crisis, get help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or visit The International Association for Suicide Prevention to be connected to a trained counselor at a crisis center nearby.
About The Authour
Jasmine L Bennett
Jasmine is a mental wellness entrepreneur, writer, creator and encourager. Her passion is to help women heal by guiding them to a life of mental and spiritual wellness. Most days you can find her spending time with family, cooking, on SAHM duties or reading about all things health & wellness @jasminelaraibennett
American Psychological Association. (n.d.). African Americans Have Limited Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Care. Retrieved Apr 2019, from American Psychological Association: https://www.apa.org/advocacy/civil-rights/diversity/african-american-health
Hamm, N. (2018, Oct 8). African-American Women and Depression. Retrieved Apr 2019, from PsychCentral: https://psychcentral.com/lib/african-american-women-and-depression/
Mental Health America. (n.d.). Depression and African Americans. Retrieved Apr 2019, from Mental Health America: https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/depression-and-african-americans
National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). African American Mental Health. Retrieved Apr 2019, from National Alliance on Mental Illness: https://www.nami.org/find-support/diverse-communities/african-americans