Black History Month 2019: Resources on Black Women, Stigma, and Mental Health
It’s Black History Month! This year we are taking an opportunity to focus on Black women, stigma, and mental health, and to share resources to support them in their journey of healing and recovery.
Black women suffer from double pressure: to be the supporters of their families and communities while remaining “strong Black women,” which can lead to shame and a reluctance to seek help for mental health distress. “Coming from a culture that prides itself on strength and celebrates how their ancestors have overcome great atrocity and tragedy, being depressed at all and then not being able to bring yourself out of it is antithetical to what it means to be Black,” said Rosalyn Denise Campbell, an assistant professor in the University of Georgia’s School of Social Work, in a feature for World Mental Health Day last year. As the Association of Black Psychologists president Huberta Jackson-Lowman, noted in MarketWatch: “For the most part, we have been the ones that are holding our families together and holding our communities together — the nurturers, the supporters — but at the same time not necessarily being nurtured or being supported in the roles that we’re carrying out.”
Even for Black women who overcome the pressure and manage to reach out for help, it may be difficult to find a Black female therapist who understands their challenges firsthand. "There aren't enough Black women therapists to go around, but it has been my experience that Black women typically want another Black woman as a therapist," Dr. Joyce Bradford told Refinery 29. "The field is still predominantly white, so even if all Black women said, 'I want to go see a therapist,' there would not be enough of us to speak to."
For all of these reasons, celebrity and mental health advocate Taraji P. Henson asks communities of color to “check on your strong friend.” But there is more that we can all do to help reduce the barriers to African-American women’s mental wellness. Here are some ideas:
Check out and share Therapy for Black Girls, which includes a therapist finder, a weekly podcast for Black women and girls, and other resources.
Read and share the Depressed While Black website, articles, and blogs featuring lived experience perspectives.
For further exploration, see:
Taraji P. Henson combats stigma of mental illness: ‘Check on your strong friend’ (Chicago Sun-Times)
Stigma of Depression Hurts African-American Populations More than Others (University of Georgia News)
Black Californians are more likely to experience mental health problems. Why? (The Sacramento Bee)
For a historical perspective, see:
“Blacks are Immune from Mental Illness” (Psychiatric Times)