As a black woman in the US, there are many things that I have to deal with daily, one thing being racism and its adverse effects on my mental health. I need to talk about this because it affects how black women see ourselves and how others see us. Racism can damage a black woman's self-worth, make them feel powerless or invisible, lead us to distrust authority figures who should be helping us-like teachers and doctors. In addition, it can cause depression if we internalize the negative things people say about our race and take them as true. This blog post will explore the correlation between racism and mental illness, emphasizing how it effects black women.
How Does Racism Affect Mental Health? 1. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): PTDS is an anxiety disorder from experiencing one or more traumatic events. Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe distress when confronted with reminders of the trauma they endured. Some studies have found that these negative effects on mental health were even more pronounced for black women than for white women. For example, one study found that "Black females had higher rates of PTSD symptoms than whites." For example, the public murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 is a traumatic event that caused many black women to realize how racism can end to the senseless deaths of our sons, fathers, and other beloved black men. Many black women are suffering PTSD from the images of black people being targeted and killed and yet must "move on" and endure without properly processing these painful memories.
2. Stress and Depression: Racial inequality and the discrimination that comes with it are major contributors to depression in black women in America. The American Psychological Association found that African Americans are three times more likely than Caucasians to have experienced symptoms of psychological distress within the past 30 days. In a study done by researchers at Duke University, they found that "Black girls are more likely than white girls to experience symptoms of depression." This is because black females are at times not protected from racial discrimination and may be held to different standards of conduct, beauty, and biases than white women. This plays to our disadvantage often at work where our livelihood's and reputation's are on the line.
Where else does stress and depression come from?
Fear for supporting her family, as black women are usually single parents and head of household in comparison to white women.
The ADAA reports that the rate of sexual assault against black women is nearly 3.5 times higher than for other races in America. Yet, a recent study found only 10% were willing to report their victimization at all possibly our of shame or fear.
3. Mental Health Stigma: The American Psychiatric Association estimates that one out of every three Black people who need mental health treatment receive it. This mistrust and stigma are a product of the long history of being mistreated, judged, or ignored when seeking help for their psychological needs. Black women have been subjected to the archetype of strong and resilient and some fear that seeking mental health is a signal of weakness and do not seek help. Further, there is a limited sup
ply of black female mental health professionals in the US for black women to feel comfortable opening up to.
4. Substance Abuse and Suicide: Racism can cause feelings of isolation, humiliation, and anger among black females. For some, especially those without
a support system and that are highly sensitive to the opinion's of others, this can lead to self-harm, which includes cutting and/or suicide ideation. It may also lead to drug abuse and alcoholism as coping mechanisms, especially when avoiding mental health treatment.
Conclusion Racism has a profound effect on mental health. Many black women live with PTSD, stress, and depression caused by the constant exposure to racism in our society. Mistrusting the system along with substance abuse and suicide are unfortunate ways many black women become lost. The best way to deal with this is to have an open dialogue with a mental health professional that you feel comfortable talking to. Visit www.therapyforblack girls.com to find a a black female mental health professional that understands your plight.