Tackling the mental health epidemic in Black Caribbean culture

Black woman mental health image

Like many marginalised ethnic groups, there is a debate on the topic of mental health in the black culture. While mental health is a subject that is examined across every ethnic group when we start to drill down into the factors for marginalised groups of people in terms of depression and anxiety we have to look at the underlying causes. 

Sexual Health

It’s not just about the relationship between man and woman, woman and woman, and everyone in between, but it’s about the age of promiscuity in which we live. We can argue that we are paying the price for promiscuity right now especially when it’s so easy to buy a chlamydia test kit online. But when we drill down into the topic of casual sex and promiscuity it can have a devastating effect on mental health. Because the gap between puberty and going into marriage is widening this group in the middle known as emerging adults turning towards casual encounters to express themselves.

The hook-up phase that has been popularized by every single dating app out there poses a significant threat to the psychological health of many people. From a woman’s perspective, there is still that double standard where people look down on women that are proud to be promiscuous. From this perspective, the 20th-century notion that it’s accepted amongst men and not women can cause a major gulf between the sexes. We also have to address the media.

The fact of the matter is that we are bombarded with imagery that highlights that it is okay. But because of that gulf between 20th-century attitudes and 21st-century actions, on an individual level, we can feel various notions of performance anxiety as well as a wide variety of emotions that culminate in mental health problems.

The “Strong Black Woman” Stereotype

One of the most ingrained images in modern society is the resolute and determined black woman. But the history that we have upon our shoulders can, to an extent, nurture this strong resolute attitude. But when we start to look at the fact that black women in Britain are more prone than white women to experience depression or anxiety we have to address the stereotype. The fact of the matter is that there are aspects of society that are anathema to our true selves. While on television, we are portrayed as confrontational or adversarial in nature, this adds an extra layer of recrimination that we have to break through. Unfortunately in the 21st century, there is still that trope flying around.

The Immigration Factor

Call it racism or discrimination but when we have the freedom that our parents didn’t have and have grown up without needing to overcome the same problems we still have the history on our shoulders. With the Windrush generation that came before us, we can feel that they have overcome so much that we’ve got two to keep quiet and not talk about these historical adversaries. While there’s an incredible focus on the Windrush generation and what has happened, we’ve got to address the fact that in our families that there can be the fact that we don’t talk about problems. When we look at our parents who emigrated in the 1950s and 60s and see how hard they worked to give us the lives that we now lead, part of us feels like we can’t talk about their hardships in case we upset them.

A loaded history

Our history is loaded, especially in the modern age, where immigration is such a big factor again. Without delving deep into racism or discrimination this naturally has a major impact on anyone’s mental health. These hurtful comments can build up over the years. And while there is a growing body of research to suggest that people exposed to racism are likelier to have mental health problems like depression, when we are talking about our history there can be a lot more to mental health issues than just differences in race.

The Mental Health Stigma

Even now with a focus on understanding mental health, there is still a stigma in different communities. We have to remember that in certain communities people don’t speak about mental health problems. This has a knock-on effect because if they are not spoken off or even seen as a negative thing this can discourage people to discuss it. This has a repercussive effect where it becomes a barrier for people to engage with mental health resources. As the millennial generation is more “heart on their sleeves”, any race can feel the pressure of their parents and grandparents with regards to the problems they overcame and not feel that it’s worth discussing. And when you look at the fact that the risk of psychosis in Black Caribbean ethnic groups is estimated to be approximately seven times higher than the white counterpart this highlights the trouble we are in.

The answer for mental health & the Black culture

So what is the answer? With so many different factors at play, combined with a seeming lack of mental health resources means that we’ve got to focus on talking more. There are some fantastic figureheads talking about some of these problems, like Marverine Cole, but we have still got to find a way to open up these problems to the floor. Sexual health is something that many younger generations are paying the price for. The strong black woman stereotype while relegated to the grandmothers is still something that we have to carry.

While immigration is the continuing cause for debate and the fact that there is still a mental health stigma, regardless of race, this means there’s so much at stake. If we’re not careful we will pay the price for not opening up. We have to remember that the stresses of the modern world are contributing to mental health problems. But when we feel in a minority it’s so easy for us to be relegated to the back corner of society. In order to make a stand for mental health in any minority group, we have to encourage a dialogue that doesn’t just cover us, but so many others. 

What do you think about mental health issues and the Black culture?

Is the black community now starting to open up to mental health issues? Or do we still have a long way to go? What can we do to change this today and for the future? Leave your comments below:

#Afrowomanonline #Thrive&Strive #Mentalhealth #Blackculture

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