You Can't be Black AND Depressed
In the black community depression doesn't exist. Hold on. Let me explain. Black people do experience depression, of course, but we as a people pretend like we don't, or at least we don't acknowledge that we experience depression or do our damndest to convince other black people that they're not experiencing it. We pretend that depression does not exist in the black community.
We are told that depression is for White people (no offense to my White/Caucasian readers). & lets not even attempt to cry out for help because getting treated for depression is most definitely not something that we, as a people, do.
We, as a people, make our depression worse. We cannot be Black and have depression because we have to be strong. This mindset might even predate slavery. We cannot show signs of weakness because we must keep fighting, we must keep pushing. We have to be strong for our families. We have to be strong Black women & our brothers have to be strong Black men. We must be the nurturers & they must be the protectors. We cannot be broken and keep it together at the same time. THERE IS NO TIME FOR BEING WEAK WHEN YOU ARE TRYING TO SURVIVE....at least that is what we are directly and indirectly taught.
It's as if Black people feel guilty for being depressed (we we do in actuality). That's why I feel like we have it worse. We experience depression & then beat ourselves up about it. If we're not beating ourselves up, someone else is invalidating or downplaying our feelings & telling us to get over it. Half the time we are ashamed for admitting that depression has visited us. To avoid the shaming from those closest to us, we often don't say anything about it at all...leaving us to suffer in silence, in fear of being ridiculed we go on throughout our day pretending like we are fine.
We are yelled at, scorned, laughed at, belittled, not believed & sometimes even physically beat to "get the depression out of us" because we don't get depressed & if we are depressed it has to be the devil or some evil spirit possessing us (never understood how beating a spirit out of someone worked in the first place). Better yet, we get the wonderful "Some people in the world have it much worse than you. There are people starving and dying in Africa and you have the nerve to be upset or depressed? Be grateful for the life that you have! It's not that bad" OR "I have ____, ____, & ____ to deal with. Stop complaining about whatever you're complaining about and be grateful that you don't have to deal with my life or what I had to deal with when I was your age." All we want sometimes is for someone to listen to us without being judged. For someone to let us cry on their shoulder without being asked a million questions. We need a space to relieve some of the steam from the pressure cooker of life.
I personally have dealt with depression for a decade, a whole 10 years. I didn't consider myself depressed, but looking back on it, I definitely was. From 15 years of age I would experience coming home from school to just to go to sleep all day, not wanting to eat, random outbursts of tears, lack of interest in the things that I liked/loved, feeling trapped in my life. I even painted my room blue with clouds so that I could pretend that I was in the clouds (how depressing is that?). My depression probably started a little sooner than that because I tried running away from home when I was 13. I felt hopeless, like I had no control over my life, my situation. On top of that, God clearly was not answering my prayers (at least that's what I thought at the time). High school wasn't too bad, college started out fine & turned into a complete shit storm.
Most of my adult life was spent dealing with depression at one point or the other. Dealing with anxiety in all kinds of ways. Side note: My first anxiety attack actually happened the day I tried running away. I didn't know it was an anxiety attack. I hyperventilated until I passed out. I just thought I was dying & that made it worse. All the while my mother is screaming at me to stop, accusing me of faking it and exaggerating, agitating the anxiety even more. But that's what I mean, even while having a full blown anxiety attack, I was accused of being extra. There was another incident when this happened & my mother got mad at me for having no an attack, like I planned it. We are hurting and we can't even turn to our own parents without them getting mad at us for being anxious, being depressed, without them telling us to just get it together...so who can we turn to?
I've noticed so much support from strangers on the Internet, more support than I've received from my family. Support from other (mostly black) women who have experienced the same thing as me. Who relate to my experience or know someone who has shared my experience.
It's about time we start talking about this. It's about time we stop making depression & anxiety a "White people thing". It's about time we stop shaming our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles for speaking up about their experience. It's about time we stop guilting people for "not being strong" because they experience depression or even anxiety. It's about time that we stop ridiculing those who need help the most. Its about time that we stop being delusional with what is happening to our people. I understand that we do need to be twice as strong and work twice as hard to make it in this world, but we don't need to be fighting the current with our own people too.
The next time a Black person confides in you that they are experiencing depression, do not make them feel less than they already are. Just listen. Just hold them. Just be there for them. Don't try to make it better, just let them express themselves without being judged or looked at as a problem. When the time is right, offer your advice.
So Black people, please stop telling other Black people that we have no right to be depressed (because we have plenty reason). Stop making each other feel bad for admitting to experiencing depression. Stop talking over us when all we want is for someone to listen to us. Stop making us for feeling worse than we already feel. Stop denying the fact that we experience depression and sometimes WE NEED TO SEEK HELP besides our friends. Stop making Black women & Black men feel weak for being honest about their feelings and their experiences. Stop ostracizing those who openly express their pain.
Here are some statistics in case there are still some non believers and nay sayers.
According to mentalhealthamerica.net:
- Adult blacks are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.
- Adult blacks living below poverty are two to three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty.
- Adult blacks are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites.
- And while blacks are less likely than whites to die from suicide as teenagers, black teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers (8.2 percent v. 6.3 percent)
- 63 percent of African Americans believe that depression is a personal weakness, this is significantly higher than the overall survey average of 54 percent.
- Only 31 percent of African Americans believed that depression was a “health problem.”
- African Americans were more likely to believe that depression was “normal” than the overall survey average.
- 56 percent believed that depression was a normal part of aging
- 45 percent believed it was normal for a mother to feel depressed for at least two weeks after giving birth
- 40 percent believed it was normal for a husband or wife to feel depressed for more than a year after the death of a spouse.
- African Americans were less likely to take an antidepressant for treatment of depression; only 34 percent would take one if it were prescribed by a doctor.
Let it also be known that women suffer from depression at a higher rate than men and African Americans suffer from depression at a higher rate than any other ethnic/racial group. So overall, women and African Americans are the top groups that suffer from depression (says the BLACK WOMAN)
There are scientific studies out there. Look for yourself.
Let's just be there to support one another. LOVE one another.
Black people DO experience depression and it is OKAY to admit it. Once we admit that we have a problem (within a problem) we can go about ways to correcting the issue! We cannot change anything if we cannot admit that there is something to change. THE. CHANGE. STARTS. NOW.
**Cover photo from @ablacklife Instagram