Black women don’t like to admit it, but nearly 30% of our population is clinically depressed. In our communities, it is a badge of honor to be considered a “strong black woman”. The persevering sister that holds up through all manner of adversity is exactly what’s expected of a Black Woman. Depression is seen by many as a sign of weakness. Being “sick and tired of being sick and tired” as Fannie Lou Hamer said; is just the way it is for Black Women…nothing more nothing less. What many Black women attribute to the blues of a tougher life than most other American citizens face; is most often very real depression.
Strong Black women bear the brunt of the world–suffering from racism, classism, gender inequality, lower socio-economic status, fewer parenting partners, fewer growth opportunities, the deep-seeding, long lasting effects of slavery, etc… So it’s easy to understand why sisters are depressed. Rather than complain, admit a problem exists, or seek treatment; it is the nature of Black Women to put on a good face and keep pressing on. Only 7% of Black women who are depressed receive treatment. But this business-as-usual attitude can be very dangerous…even lethal.
Major depression affects nearly 10% of the US adult population. As reported by PBS:
- Depression is expected to be the world’s 2nd greatest health concern by the year 2020.
- Approximately 80% of people experiencing depression are not currently receiving any treatment.
- Depression is one of the most treatable illnesses, with 80-90% finding relief.
Depression is the #1 risk factor for suicide. Though Blacks are 3 times less likely to actually commit suicide than white Americans; 15% of depressed people will commit suicide. In fact, nearly 40,000 Americans commit suicide every year, with a life lost every 14 1/2 minutes. Over 90% of the people who die from suicide have a diagnosable depressive disorder. Black women should not continue to suffer from depression or possibly even fall among the ranks of people who ultimately succumb to this very treatable illness.
Learn the signs. Take a Depression Screening Test here.
Also, here is a list of Common Symptoms of Clinical Depression, (provided by UC Berkeley):
- Sleep disturbances-insomnia, over-sleeping, waking much earlier than usual
- Changes in appetite or eating: much more or much less
- Decreased energy, fatigue
- Headaches, stomach ache, digestive problems or other physical symptoms that are not explained by other physical conditions or do not respond to treatment
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed, such as going out with friends, hobbies, sports, sex, etc.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Neglecting responsibilities or personal appearance
- Persistent sad or “empty” mood, lasting two or more weeks
- Crying “for no reason”
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, guilty or worthless
- Feeling irritable, agitated or anxious
- Thoughts of death or suicide
There is Help. Again depression, the leading cause of suicide, is 80-90% treatable. If you are suffering, don’t continue to do so in silence. It may not be the blues. Beyond the threat of suicide, depression is also a key factor in many other health concerns, such as hypertension, IBS, obesity, and heart disease. Reach out to your health care provider. Or utilize this valuable list of resources to get the help you need.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline : 1-800-273-8255.
Local non-profits and churches also offer support groups in your area.
Yes, we are strong Black women. But we can and do suffer from major depression more often than we’d like to admit. The real strong Black woman knows when it’s time to get help, and is not afraid to seek out that help. If you or someone you know is suffering from any fo the symptoms listed above, please seek treatment, immediately.