“You don’t go tell White people nothing” is a study about African American women and depression and how seeking treatment is influenced by racism, violence, and social context.
As I was coming to the end of my classes for my PhD and getting ready to start my dissertation, I was really excited about the topic I chose, strength of African American women with depression. Little did I know, I would learn more about this topic than I expected. As time passed and I took breaks from school to deal with family issues, I became one of the subjects I wished to study.
According to a number of studies, depression was found to be a stigma among the African American community. Because black women are taught to be strong, many having no other choice, depression is seen as the women being either weak, crazy, or even seen as being made up. There are a number of reasons why African American women continue to suffer from depression without seeking help. These reasons range from embarrassment to lack of medical coverage and finances.
There’s a plethora of black women who have witnessed their mother struggling to take care of the family, many whom were single mothers, never breaking down or seemingly always having it together. This is not to say she was perfectly fine. It could be that she never said anything because she had no choice but to be strong. This trend has been shown to trickle down many times over. Black women tend to find their own coping methods for dealing with their depression, but these methods are not always effective. Not seeking help and trying to deal with this illness on your own can result in not only the deterioration of ones health, but also contribute to our children’s lack of understanding about their own emotional distraction. Hence, the cycle continues.
Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, many black women tend to deal with this disease on their own, never seeking help. Those that are courageous enough to seek help often hide this from family and friends. Counseling or therapy is one thing, but adding medication into the mix is a whole other issue that many black women consider to be a no, no.
Even today, depression among African American women, and treatment, remain to be an uncharted or nonessential issue. Although there has recently been a little more light shed on this topic. Nia Hamm wrote an article in the Huffington Post about black women and depression, and the lack of treatment. It is incredible that even in 2015, black women are the least likely group to seek treatment. Teri Williams, an African American publicist and author, in her book, Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting, gives us an in-depth view to her struggle with depression, and reasons why black women hide this illness.
Before two years ago I never thought that I would face the dark places of depression, but when I lost the most influential person in my life, that all changed. However, I was not afraid, nor ashamed, to seek help. This was mainly due to the fact that I had already read many studies about this issue for my research, and became quite familiar with the consequences of not getting help. Like many black women, I was never taught about or saw depression growing up. During my grieving, I learned to understand my feelings. It really wasn’t until the second year of my loss that I had become my own study. When I realized that I felt like I was in a dark place, wanting to stay in bed, crying instantly and out of nowhere, I went for help. At first I spoke to my primary doctor where I had my first major melt down. I believe that pursing help was the best thing I could have done.
Please know that depression doesn’t make you a weak person, it doesn’t mean that you are crazy, and it is something you should not be ashamed of. Depression IS another struggle that we as black women have to deal with. As an African American community, we need to become more familiar with depression, and teach our sisters and daughters about this debilitating disease. Sometimes knowing that you have people in your corner who understand, or try to understand, can make it a little bit easier. I have a number of friends who are on antidepressants for one reason or another. We help each other and we allow one another to be in their moment while each of us stand by their side. The misconception is that you can deal with this thing alone. By having others by your side, and with treatment, you can be pulled out of that dark place. Sometimes letting someone know could save your life.
Fatimha Love, MS is a motivational speaker and ABD for her PhD.
“Scars tell the story of where you’ve been, They don’t dictate where you’re going.” ~ Author Unknown