Depression: Stigma in Black People?

‘I honestly believe we’re so accustomed to delivering the strong Black woman speech to ourselves and everyone else that we lose our ability to connect to our humanness, and thus our frailty. We become afraid to admit that we are hurting and struggling because we fear that we will be seen as weak. And we can’t be weak. We’ve spent our lives witnessing our mothers and their mothers be strong and sturdy, like rocks. We want to be rocks.’ Josie Pickens

Just about a month ago, the story broke about a young man (35years old) who was being driven along the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, Nigeria. Apparently asked the driver to pack so he could relieve himself then promptly jumped straight into the Lagoon. His body was fished out three days later after a long and rigorous search. Come to find out he was a medical doctor with a history of mental illness, depression to be exact.


There arose a lot of questions about why a young man with seemingly everything going for him should commit suicide. Thus bringing the issue of depression to the front burner of the nation’s consciousness.  Research has shown that depression and mental illness has remained for the most past absent from the public discourse in the Black community as it is more than likely spiritualized, demonized or pushed completely under the carpet for fear of stigmatization. What with the tag of it being the same as someone being ‘crazy’ so the shame and embarrassment make it not acknowledged as a serious problem even though they are at high risk, what with problems like homelessness, unemployment and stress abounding. Since it’s a taboo subject these people are never treated or refuse to seek treatment or help.

Symptoms like sleeping too much or too little, physical pain, stress, substance abuse, lack of sex drive, irritability, and aggressiveness are often than not ignored, but it can drastically decrease the quality of life for an individual suffering from depression. Even though we are told that suffering from depression means that we have committed sin or just take your problems to Jesus, not some stranger or that black people don’t get depressed as if they are not humans.

Black people believe in mental strength and are liable to ignore anything that makes them look weak. But when you have so much going on and no outlet, suicidal and dark violent thoughts are formed.

Madison Grey says

‘For Black men, we are taught to not deal with our feelings. Yeah, that’s true. I even told myself to “man up” last weekend, but then I wondered how many times had I flown off the handle when I kept it all bottled in rather than talking about it. If that’s the case, how many men turned their depression into anger, resulting in violence? How many lives could have been saved, caps and gowns been worn, or prison beds left unoccupied if brothers just had the chance to open up?’

Depression is a huge issue and for folks, who go through it, it’s like their life is no longer worth living, the pain that they deal with is too much to bear and sometimes no matter the amount of encouragement it just does not help but a balance has to be created. But it’s good to realize that life isn’t always going to be full of happiness so it’s quite normal to be sad whether you are in the midst of a financial crisis, homeless,  lost a loved one or going through a break-up. Nobody is obligated to live for others you only have your life and your path to living at the end of the day so strive to find that balance. We all need a reason to keep going or something to look forward to in life.

For people suffering from depression to keep your life on an even kilter writing your thoughts and feelings down is a great help. Don’t think about what you are putting on the page; go back read what you wrote to get a full grasp of what you are feeling in one flow. Pray or meditate and then throw the pages away or burn them as a sign of no longer allowing them to exist. Read a lot of inspirational books. Find a counselor especially if you feel your depression getting worse and be consistent with your therapy and medication. Join support groups, having non-judgmental people to talk to really helps. Easier said than done, I know as majority just agree with what you say to get you to hurry along with your story or some have their own problems and don’t really give a care about another but still, share with someone. Exercise like walking, running is a great relieve. Working out can help physically and mentally to take away the dark thoughts swirling in your head. Find a hobby that you enjoy, then find your happy space as things will eventually get better in the long haul. Listen to music as there are studies which show the positive effects of music on the mood. Know that depression is like any other illness even though it’s not seen with the physical eyes.

And #smilewithpurpose cause in as much as there’s no cure for depression you just have to get on with life the best way you can.


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