Depression and anxiety are prevalent in the black community…
It is a silent epidemic that affects almost everyone we know in subtle and obvious ways. Normally, when we see depictions of mental health or depression and anxiety in particular, we are not seen in those depictions. It is usually a white person, usually a white woman, looking sad and alone isolating herself from others. The majority of these depictions occur with an advertisement for medication.
Depression and anxiety turns up in a million other ways that we may not be aware of. For some depression may be:
Crying more than usual
Not sleeping well or sleeping to much
Lack of focus
Irritability or a “short fuse”
Using food to manage our sadness
Not enjoying your fun activities the way you used to
Excessive shopping to distract from loneliness and painful emotions
A decrease in work performance
These are only a few ways in shows up in our lives...
Anxiety may look like this:
Constant worrying that you can’t talk yourself out of
Sense of doom
Waking up with a feeling in your chest that you can’t explain
Upsetting stories playing in your head on repeat
Feeling drained from your own thinking
Using food to manage our anxiety
This is merely a few ways anxiety shows up in our lives…
Depression and anxiety if often overlooked in our community for a few reasons, shame and stigma being only one. Shame and stigma regarding mental health is a western construct. It is something that was given to us with the enslavement and colonization of our ancestors. The European colonizer has always had a fraught relationship with mental health and people in their society were often treated in a brutal and inhumane manner for that reason.
As that group colonized others and removed cultural healing practices that would have augmented prolonged sadness and other emotional disruptions if they occurred, to replace it we were given nothing. Only the idea that we should be ashamed of needing time heal and recover. And that if we needed to do this we were weak and non-productive. This was all internalized over many generations leading to a profound lack of self-care in the black community and being shamed for needing to give ourselves mental and emotional attention. This is seen is black folks being overly represented in poor health outcomes in every area of our society.
This is not accident. This is not only a lack of health education. This is ancestral trauma and intergenerational trauma leading to depression, anxiety and an overall lack of self-care and attunement with our own bodies and needs. Depression shows up in the black community in numerous ways that cannot all be spelled out here but it affects us deeply. In poor parental relationships, poor partner selection, poor child rearing practices, violence in our communities, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual violence and trauma to name but a few.
Depression and anxiety is all around us and it is up to us to begin to heal our own minds and bodies so that we can be the generation that break this cycle in our homes and communities.