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Strong Black Women, Who Are Tired of Staying Strong

Mental health stigmas surrounding African-American women


Ayanna L. Haynie

The mental anguish of Black women is far too often thrown into the back-seat in favor of the
tried and true “Strong Black Woman” cliché, and it is far more harmful to them than many may
have considered.
Between workplace inequality, outright abuse, disrespect, our erratic social climate, and potential
inherited mental health issues, Black women are constantly expected to shoulder so much weight
that is emotionally, physically, psychologically, spiritually, and even financially draining. But
yet society still demands that remain solid pillars of “strength” and class within our communities.
According to Mental Health America, 6.8 million African Americans have been diagnosed with
a mental illness, and the number among black women in the U.S. is probably much greater than
reported
The strong black woman phrase---which was formerly used to praise the minority group, has
now become a harmful stereotype. The expression is used to justify abusing and oppressing
black women, calls for them to be impenetrable, twice as good as their white counterparts, and to
never appear fragile.
As reported by the to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Black people are 10
percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic whites
And according Office of Minority Health. People who experience racial macroaggressions,
assault, insults, and invalidations are more likely to show symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Sadly, in today’s climate women of color are at extremely high risks of developing psychological
trauma and related disorders at higher elevations than a majority of other minority groups.
Poverty levels also have the ability to effect one’s mental health status. African Americans living
below the poverty level, as compared to those over twice the poverty level, are 3 times more
likely to report psychological distress (Office of Minority Health).
African-American women living in medically underserved communities may encounter a vast
amount of unqualified professionals, often compounded by limitations due to health insurance or
lack of.
The social stigma surrounding the black community also tends to turn some away from seeking
the proper help. Within the African-American sub culture, the church is where black people turn
for mental and emotional relief. But sometimes black people’s dependence on the church only
for mental wellness can be problematic, as messages about mental health and spiritualty clash.
While it is true that many—if not most Black women are historically praised for being, indeed,
strong, that does not mean they are invulnerable. Or that their strength is infinite. It also does not
mean that their strength is absolute. That does not mean that Black women aren’t exhausted.