Updated: Oct 17, 2021
For many Black females struggling with their mental health, self-care is still a political act. "Caring for myself is not self-indulgence." wrote Black feminist poet Audre Lorde in her collection of essays, A Burst of Light: And other Essays. "It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.". But Lorde's point on self-care being a political act still holds today for Black females across the globe.
Social issues like poverty, gender-based violence, racism, sexism and unemployment affect our physical and mental well being. Research done by World Health Organisation found that discrimination causes and amplifies mental health issues.
Mental health myths in the Black community are still holding many of us from getting the necessary mental health help we need. We are expected to be strong Black women, and there is a lack of adequate support that is culturally tailored to the unique experiences faced by Black females. Even with the existence of support available, stigma, misinformation, cultural beliefs, and even distrust with the medical community hinder most Black females from seeking help.
Here are four myths and misconceptions hindering the black community from getting the necessary support:
1.) We cannot discuss personal issues with strangers
Personal issues are not to be discussed outside the family. Seeking therapy is a sign of weakness. Saying I have a therapist will make people think I am crazy. People will think I cannot handle my issues and am trying to seek attention.
These are just some of the concerns that plague most Black females. But therapy is for everyone, and our silence is making us sicker and creating chaos in our lives, leaving behind a trail of damage.
Talking about your problems can help release pent up feelings, which you might not be able to express to friends or relatives due to fear of being judged.
2.) Black females don't get depressed
Indeed Black females are resilient, strong and wonderful, but we are not indestructible. We are not superheroes from fictional books; we are human, vulnerable and bear a lot in our daily lives. We're constantly worried about the world's ways, and that can take a significant toll on us. Unemployment, parenting, racial and gender discrimination puts Black females at a greater risk of mental illnesses. Unfortunately, we have normalized that it is our job to endure pain and smile our way through it all for the sake of our community. One thing for sure is that it is okay not to be okay; we are only human.
3.) You can pray your depression away
Faith is integral in the lives of many Black women. It gives one a strong sense of self, paves the way for optimism and provides comfort. But prayer and religion alone cannot cure mental health challenges. They can play a role in the journey to self-healing with the right kind of medical support. And no, suffering from a mental illness does not mean God is punishing you for your sins or the devil is testing you.
4.) It is just "The Blues"; it will pass
The only constant thing in life is change, and life has its ups and downs with moments of sadness that eventually go away. But there comes a time when the feeling of sadness does not go away quickly. The low moments in life impact start to one's ability to go about their day-to-day tasks. For many of us in the Black community, we would not identify these symptoms, and we would shrug them off and believe they will pass on their own with time. Terming them as "The Blues" is potentially dangerous because it dismisses the seriousness of mental health disorders and stigmatizes and shames those who need help.
Always remember there is no shame in asking for help; your health is on the line. Do your research and find the best possible support available. Do not let fear stop you from taking that leap of seeking help.