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Why Black Women are Silently Suffering with Depression

By Paige Smith

Depression has become the silent assassin on the black community. Like any mental or physical illness, depression doesn’t discriminate against anyone. Yet in the black community depression has long been stigmatized as a condition African Americans, in particular African American women, don’t deal with.

Terrie M. Williams, author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting opened up in a CNN interview with Soledad O’ Brien on how for years she silently suffered with depression. She admits that she felt so much darkness and pain but never opened up because she had to wear “the mask”.

Although on the outside she seemed to have it all together, having a successful publicist career with high profile clientele, for her even the small task of getting out of the bed in the morning and taking a shower was “the hardest thing”.

So many black women are like Williams, feeling engulfed by the weight of depression but for the sake of their careers, their marriages, their ministries, their reputations, they pull it together, put on “the mask”, and continue on, seemingly conquering the world.

Yet this “Black superwoman syndrome”, as JLO and Ebony have coined it, is crippling Black women who feel the need to be strong for everyone else, often at the expense of their own mental health. (Read more “The Danger of Being a Superwoman” on JadeLee.org and “Depression and The Black Superwoman Syndrome” on Ebony.com).

As a young black woman I’ve seen it in my life and so many others. Black women who are pillars for so many others, carrying the weight of the world to the point of mental and emotional breakdowns.

Some would say that “black women are the back bone of society”, yet depression is what can be a result when that back bone begins to bend under the strain of mounting pressures, with no support to lean on (Soledad O’Brian).

I know for myself and many other Black women, we can find ourselves in the throes of anxiety and depression yet find it so difficult to reach out of our internal darkness for help.

This “darkness” can look different for many, and some women like Terrie Williams may seem to be doing perfectly fine, but be suffering from depression.

According to www.mentalhealthamerica.com some symptoms are:

1. A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, or excessive crying
2. Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased appetite and weight gain

3. Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders and chronic pain

4. Irritability, restlessness

5. Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
 Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, hopelessness, pessimism

6. Sleeping too much or too little, early-morning waking

7. Loss of interest on pleasure in activities, including sex

8. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions

8. Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

If you or a loved one have experienced any of these symptoms, I encourage you to reach out. Nothing is more important than your well being and your mental health.

You don’t have to be strong for everyone. In fact, opening up to someone who accepts your vulnerability can bring immense healing. Consider talking to a therapist and allowing yourself a safe place to discuss how you’ve been feeling beyond “the mask” you may feel the need to wear.

You deserve happiness. You deserve joy. You deserve beauty for your ashes. You deserve the ability to be an authentic woman, without the pressure to be a “super” version of yourself.

Open up today, your physical, emotional, and mental life could be saved because of it.

Here are some encouraging scriptures to read for meditation:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8)

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:1-3)

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Do you have any tips for someone struggling with depression?  We want to hear from you as our readers.  Please share in the comments below.

4 replies
  1. Victoria Wright
    Victoria Wright says:

    This blog impacts such great knowledge on the subject of depression. I can relate entirely to it. I recall seeing commercials of prescription drugs that suppressed the symptoms of depression. I didn’t understand or believe that depression was something that people actually battled with. It wasn’t my reality until it became my reality. In my past I would carry a lot of weight from high expectations that I sustained for myself, from friends, and family. In the mist of maintaining those expectations; trials and burdens started to take place in different stages of my life. Trials caused me to really become hard on myself to the point of isolation. I felt that isolation upheld my dignity in the mist of my suffering. I perceived to be okay outwardly, but inside I suffered silently. Unaware, depression began to creep into my life. Depression had an effectt mainly on my mind, self esteem, and personality. The main tips that I used to overcome depression was to first not go through it alone (as this blog states). I slowly started to open up to certain people about depression. I also renounced isolation in my life. I begun to make efforts to socialize with people. I sought to understand the lesson within my trials, and I valued my growth through those trials. I realized that it wasn’t my obligation to have carried the weight of the world. I took the term “Strong Black Woman” way out of context. I started to build my relationship with Christ daily. I prayed and also received prayer. It was a process, but I overcame it. This awareness truly blessed my life! Thanks for posting!

    Reply
    • Jade Lee
      Jade Lee says:

      Victoria,

      Thanks so much for your insight. I know that it will help a lot of people because you’re sharing about what you have Personally Experienced. There is nothing like practical wisdom that comes from the life of someone who has been through and come to the other side. You are strong because you have shared your experience in vulnerability. You are strong because you have humbly chosen to help others. And you are strong because you opened up your life again, even when others could harm you! Hats off to your journey and story; I know many others are silently suffering and need to hear it.

      Reply
    • Jade Lee
      Jade Lee says:

      Isolation is such a huge issue in the black community, and I know first hand it is possible to experience isolation with tons of people surrounding you. That’s why it is so important that we find a safe place with safe people to share how we are feeling. Depression can get really dark if we are not careful to reach out for help. Thank you for sharing your experience with others! We never know who may read and it and feel a little less alone.

      Reply

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