Many things are discussed within the Black community on a national level such as Queen Bey and Jay-Z’s marriage, natural hair, the latest Usher video (yes, it’s hot) but what doesn’t get much airplay is Black health and wealth, especially for Black women. Even when health is discussed the focus is mainly on the declining cardiovascular health of Black women and obesity. It is still fairly taboo to discuss mental health within the Black community. “Life is hard” is a mantra for Black women. Since the time of slavery Black women have borne an emotional burden that is often shrouded in faith. That faith has told Black women that they must “fix their face”, swallow their feelings, press on and pray. The Black church has historically addressed clinical depression (not emotional depression) by telling its congregants to pray more. Seeing a mental health professional is seen as weak and/or an indulgence of White people. God will fix all things, including one’s depression.
The first issue with this is not understanding the difference between emotional and clinical depression. Emotional depression is brought about by an event, the loss of a loved one for example. Hopefully this will “fix” itself through the passage of time and the grieving process. Clinical depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. A person with clinical depression would react similarly to the loss of a loved one and winning the lottery. This is a serious medical condition that requires medical intervention on the part of a licensed therapist who specializes in clinical depression. This is not simply going into to your general practitioner and asking for Prozac. However, that’s what happens. Anti-depressants are the most prescribed medications in the United States.
The second issue is because this is a condition that requires medical intervention prayer alone is not enough. This isn’t meant to be an attack on the church. In fact, the Black church has started to take up a new position on this by encouraging people to seek out mental health professionals. However, because Black women are the most devout demographic in the US they tend to rely on the power of prayer versus a full treatment plan. That treatment plan doesn’t always involve medication by the way. Exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on clinical depression. Seeking a medical health professional is tricky, it really depends on who you see. You don’t want someone that always has you dwelling in your negative feelings. You do want someone who will listen. Even if you’re emotionally depressed seeing someone just for the purpose of having someone listen to you without judgement is incredible. In a world of talkers, it’s hard to find listeners.
The third issue is that clinical depression is not a White-person’s disease. There is a perception that Black people suffer less from clinical depression. It only seems that way because Black people are less likely to report symptoms to their doctors, if they even see a doctor. Maybe that’s because Black women are so entrenched in this facade of being super women. Given the fact we have the worst cardiovascular health in this country and struggle with obesity, and stress it’s not a hard leap to believe we also suffer in high numbers from clinical depression. If clinical depression is a chemical imbalance and poor health and stress create chemical imbalances it stands to reason that depression is a serious factor in the overall well being of Black women. Throw on top of that the media’s pursuit of Angry Black Women’s Syndrome and that we are the least likely to marry but the most likely to get a college education.
Black women are at a tipping point in this country. I don’t believe it’s a crisis point, quite the contrary. There are equal parts progression and regression. Black women are making more professional strides than ever before. This Black EVEolution, if you will, is being marked by a return to natural hair and even more resources dedicated to uplifting Black women than ever before. This declining health and wealth trend can be turned around and a New Black Chick is just the one to do it. But we have to be mentally and emotional sound in order to do it. Here’s how:
- Love yourself enough to take care of yourself. De-stress and take time out to recharge. You can’t be all things to all people while being nothing to yourself.
- Exercise and nutrition play a big part in keeping your body’s chemical balances in check. You would be surprised what a good diet and exercise regimen can do for your emotional well being. Don’t forget to get plenty of sleep, it’s the body’s daily deep-healing ritual.
- Get help if you need help. Seek out a professional licensed therapist who’s first thought isn’t about writing you a script for pills but evaluating you properly and including multiple treatment options. Sometimes, you just may need someone to talk to.
- Be vulnerable. Yes we are strong Black women and it’s killing us. Let your closest friends and family members in on the secret. The hard part is people tend to NOT believe strong people when they say they need help. While this is discouraging keep going, someone will believe you and it may be the least likely person.
- Pray if it’s what you believe and it brings you clarity, but don’t let that be it alone. God is about community, He puts resources in our lives for a reason.
- Learn more at the National Alliance of Mental Illness or visit Dr. Elisa English’s page, Ask Dr. Elisa dedicated to mental health within the Black community.
What do you think about Black women and depression? Let us know, we want to hear from you. We need to address this as a community. It isn’t against God to get help nor is it an indulgence of the wealthy. Mental and physical health go hand-in-hand with the attainment of wealth.
REAL TALK | REAL THINGS | REAL RESULTS