Depression and the Black Woman: It’s Real—and Treatable3/07/2012
When a Black woman loses her cool temporarily and isn’t able to take care of her children with a sm...
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