A stigma surrounds the idea of mental health in many black communities. People of color are often ashamed to consider their own mental health needs as important, and this stigma is both deep and enduring. Black women struggle even harder with it.
The stigma could be cultural in nature. Black people in America endured centuries of slavery. Even after they were technically freed as a people, they were still oppressed culturally and economically, the vestiges of which are still prevalent for many people of color even today.
When survival was all that mattered for so long, dismissing mental health is bound to happen. Yet, for all the struggles and discrimination blacks face these days, mental health is something that deserves attention, precisely because it’s so hard being a person of color in the modern United States.
Black women are expected to be resilient, displaying strength in all situations. While such a mindset can offer protective benefits for themselves and their families, it’s also a belief system that can eventually generate psychological distress. Many black women feel compelled to suppress their feelings. In fact, asking for help is viewed by many as a sign of weakness. Still, anyone, of any race, who suppresses their feelings long enough will have a breakdown of sorts.
Part of the stigma about mental health among black women is likely due to how mental health research in the country is ‘whitewashed.’ Professional studies tend to focus on white experiences. In fact, over 80 percent of all members of the psychology workforce are white, and only 3 percent black. Psychologists and therapists simply can’t connect to people based on shared cultural experiences, and the risk of misdiagnosis is real.
The recent pandemic has certainly brought this issue to the forefront. Black women were already enduring many forms of emotional trauma from childhood up before all this, but the events of the global crisis have impacted them just as hard as everyone else. The need for mental health resources is greater than ever.
Fortunately, the pandemic might have also created solutions. The need for sound mental health and its importance is an ongoing message in the world of social media. Also, a number of online resources using virtual visits now make remote mental health help possible for anyone online.