Mental Health Awareness and Black Women: Beyond the Strong, Resilient, Black Woman Narrative

belonging black women black women's health inclusion mental health awareness month May 02, 2023

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I want to highlight Black women, who continue to navigate society, often revered as “strong” or “resilient.” There is nothing inherently wrong with being considered strong or resilient. However, these descriptors also feed into the generalizations that Black women can handle more with less support. And worse–we experience more discrimination, abuse, and neglect compared to white women or even our Black male counterparts.

Phrases including “strong Black woman” and “Black women are resilient” minimize the real challenges Black women experience in society that lead us to exude strength and resilience to begin with. Navigating society with inherently oppressive systems and narratives that continue to cause harm to Black women leads to disproportionately negative impacts on mental health and overall well-being. When Black women advocate for ourselves and one another in an effort to improve circumstances for the sake of our well-being, it’s not uncommon to experience gaslighting or other forms of abuse. And if we’re not careful, we risk being labeled as angry or no longer valuable and discarded. This is also harmful when considering our anger resulting from oppressive systems, narratives, and circumstances is justified.

If you’re wondering why I’m highlighting Black women’s mental health, I’ll tell you it’s because I have witnessed and can relate to the strong, resilient, Black woman narrative. It shows up in professional settings, interpersonal relationships, and media, to name a few. These narratives can be dehumanizing for Black women who are struggling to keep it all together while managing the same (if not more) responsibilities as non-Black women in addition to social and systemic oppression.

When Black women say we need support, believe us. When we share that a circumstance is impacting our mental health and well-being, believe us. Please don’t invalidate Black women by bypassing or minimizing our experiences. Instead, when we share our experience ask what support we need. Supporting Black women is integral to inclusion and belonging work.

I'm not saying you have to be the one to provide the support, but when you ask what is needed, you might realize you're aware of who can help if you're not in a position to do so. 

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