As we reflect on BIPOC Mental Health Month, we must continue to talk about the exponential number of traumas, burdens and barriers faced by Black women. Black women must fight, day in and day out, through microaggressions, sexism, European beauty standards, trauma and much more. In recognition that Black women’s mental health matters more than ever today, Pacific Clinics Clinical Associate Director Antoinette Harris, MSW and Clinical Team Supervisor Vikki Charles, LMFT share their thoughts on commonly perceived roles and expectations, as well as the importance of intersectionality in discourse about mental health and barriers to care for Black women.
“The roles, expectations and responsibilities of a Black women are complex. On one hand, the perception is that we are revered, highly imitated, considered capable in multiple areas and assumed to be available to support whomever whenever. On the other hand, we are belittled, disregarded, overlooked and tragically abused. With these mixed perceptions, Black women are running on a continuous mental and physical treadmill that is exhausting,” Harris explains.
In addition to Black women “being strong” and dealing with their challenges, there are further barriers to accessing care, such as:
- Finding mental health professionals who are culturally competent and understand or have knowledge of what it means to be a Black woman in the world today.
- Mental health stigma remains a barrier and treatment can be perceived as a luxury, or those in treatment can be looked at as weak – conflicting with the “strong Black woman” stereotype.
- The cost of therapy or treatment can be an economic burden, especially for the uninsured.
“In addition to economic stressors, obtaining education for their children, concern for their children’s safety and for themselves, and continuing their own career development, mental health is often the last item on the list to address if at all. I think many Black women are not even aware of their own mental health needs as they believe they must be strong. And sadly, perhaps they believe they really must do it all alone, not fully recognizing how all that stress impacts them mentally and physically and spiritually,” says Charles.
“With the daily reports of aggression in and within our community and in our society, as whole Black women are in dire need of mental health support. Yes, we are amazingly resilient, but what are the consequences of being so resilient and strong?”
Mental health is equally as important as physical health. Making time for self-care, finding the right provider and tapping into one’s support systems are keys to wellness.
“Mental health awareness is every day and receiving wholeness is more than a civil right, it’s a human need regardless of race, ethnicity or social, economic status,” exclaims Harris.
Mental health resources for Black women: