The discussion around mental health can be considered circumstantial in most cases. Those who battle with depression or anxiety are always at the forefront of the type of people we need to consider, especially during Mental Health Awareness Month. Children are usually next on the list followed by those with disorders such as ADHD. But where do Black women fall on that list?
Black women are always commended for being “strong” and holding down the community. We are oftentimes considered superheroes and have no room to be a damsel in distress. Ultimately, the “strong Black woman” trope is damaging to us and the perception of Black women everywhere.
It Starts Before We Even Know It
From our youth, our innocence is ripped from us solely because of this idea. A study by Georgetown Law found that adults see Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their White peers. This can be translated to the type of treatment we received in school compared to our white counterparts. Black girls receive harsher punishment from administration for actions that would be considered child like behavior if another race did it. We have to take this type of treatment and grow into adulthood with it.
Adultification is a form of dehumanization, robbing Black children of the very essence of what makes childhood distinct from all other developmental periods: innocence”
-Georgetown Law’s Study, “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood”
How Our Mental Health Is Directly Affected
Which brings me back to the discussion of our mental health. Being considered “strong” is directly impacting the way we process the ins and outs of our lives. We develop to be independent, self reliant and closed off. This in turn creates a pattern we pass down to our daughters and their daughters. Creating this never ending chain of “strong Black women” who didn’t choose this identifier.
This Mental Health Awareness month, remember that “OMG you’re so strong” is not a compliment for Black women. We didn’t choose to be strong. It was embedded in our DNA, it was shoved on to us without our permission. Only we are left to deal with the baggage it comes with. We deserve to be saved too.