Depression and the Black Woman: It’s Real—and Treatable

When a Black woman loses her cool temporarily and isn’t able to take care of her children with a smile, work a full-time job without appearing fatigued, tend to her significant other’s needs with pleasant intensity, and lend a gentle and listening ear to her girlfriends, she is often viewed as lazy or uncommitted to life’s obligations. And because of this unwanted labeling, many Black women suffer from depression in silence.

Depression in the Black community, especially among women of color, is a very real problem.  The failure to effectively treat depression also comes from the traditional African-American and Caribbean family structure. Most of us have heard phrases like: “What happens in our family isn’t anyone else’s business,” “Don’t embarrass/disrespect our family by sharing personal details,” or “We don’t believe in counseling. We’re not going to pay someone to tell us that we have problems. That’s what prayer is for.” This makes for countless women who are expected to hold their feelings of abandonment, confusion, betrayal and inadequacy inside to prevent hurting other members of the family. Generations of Black families can, unfortunately, relate to this phenomenon, which means that depressive behavior becomes learned.

Black women are also taught not to complain about their full schedules and expectations to hold a family together. These expectations are partly the result of slavery, when women were forced to be the heads of the household as their men were sold to plantations all across the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean. Any time a woman of color says anything like “I need a break” or “I need to take some time for myself,” her children and husband may with resentment because these notions are not generally culturally acceptable. This too can lead to extreme stress and depression.

Many women of color are not able to share feelings of being overwhelmed or overworked with their spouses, bosses or friends which can also lead to health problems. Additionally, eating to establish a sense of comfort can lead to weight gain and can increase the chances of depression. Think about most of the foods that fill the dinner table at family gatherings. Many of them are filled with sugar and simple carbohydrates. These foods will provide a euphoric feeling that can make people temporarily forget their problems.

Other symptoms that could indicate depression in Black women include:
  • Inability to concentrate at work or during important conversations
  • Suicidal thoughts
  •  Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable
  • Overall fatigue and lack of energy, even after getting adequate sleep
  • Extreme changes in sleep patterns
  • Poor memory

You may not have time in your busy schedule to attend a counseling session, or your family hasn’t quite gotten used to the idea that you’re an actual human being and need a breather on occasion. 

Of course, there are medications that will treat depression, but many of these pills have undesirable side effects. You could opt to try several herbal remedies that you can include in your daily regimen. Many of these affordable herbal options are available at your local grocery store.

St. John’s wort. A number of clinical trials have proven that St. John’s wort is effective for treating mild depression and anxiety. It may take about three weeks for St. John’s wort to start making a difference in your mood and overall disposition. However, once you become accustomed to the herb, you may find that the natural medicine helps with stomach upsets, gives you a more restful sleep, and can even aid in your weight loss efforts. 

Vitamin B12. Foods like red meat, beans, and eggs are rich in vitamin B12, which is necessary to promote brain function and elevate the mood. B12 also improves your concentration and clarity of thought, so you’ll be better able to verbally express your feelings. And sometimes, venting your frustrations is all you need to feel better. If you’re not getting enough B12 in your diet (a problem many vegetarians and vegans face), take a supplement each day with a meal. 

Gingko biloba. Gingko biloba is an herb that is known for improving memory. This is due to the supplement’s ability to supply more blood to the brain, and this also helps to put you in a good mood. Gingko can also help to stabilize blood sugar levels; when the body’s blood sugar is out of whack, this can lead to severe mood swings and manic depression. Taking a capsule or two of gingko biloba daily can make it easier for you to focus on difficult tasks at work, and keeps your stress level from rising too high in challenging situations. 

Tamiya King is a fashion blogger and alternative health writer. She possess an English degree and has been writing professionally for over a decade. King is also a professional image consultant, and is studying to become a certified health coach to learn new and exciting ways to help women look and feel their best. You can reach her on Twitter (@tamiyafking).

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