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African American Women and Mental Health :Why We Don’t Seek Help!


According to a recent study, about 20% of African-Americans might acquire mental illness in their life time. In recent years, a large number of African-American women have faced mental health problems but refused to receive the proper medications or treatment. Most women are able to ignore the fact that they require treatment at some point in their life. Which results in misdiagnoses and improper treatment for this illness. This situation remains untreated for a while and most women won’t admit this may be one of their problems, due to the lack of knowledge and stigma.


Historical Mistrust


In the past years, most of the African-American women suffer from emotional/physical abuse, which then results in low self-esteem that is the cause of depression and anxiety. Although treatment/medications can possibly cure the disease, women are not lining up to be observed or diagnosed. Bandage can cure the wounds on the body, but few women fail to see the psychological problems still exist. Also some women just don’t won’t anyone in their business. Since some women never address the issue because of the stigma that surrounds the illness, they often go untreated mentally even if the wounds on the body are healed.


Social Violence and Injustice


Experiencing social violence in our neighborhoods has become an integral part in affecting the mental state of African-American women and men as well. According to a study conducted in 2015, the cases of traumatic depression has increased due to the effects of social violence happening in the neighborhoods they live in. When men are affected by violence, a big part of it lands on the shoulder of our women who have lost their husbands, boyfriends, or even children. This not only creates trauma in the homes, but adds serious stress that affects their thinking and perception of things around them.


Stigma and Myths


Research would give you the information that during distressing times in African-American older women lives, they would rely on the belief that they would be somehow saved by their belief in faith or religion. At that time, years ago many medical professionals did not believe such an illness existed. So again many went untreated, because a large many of black women depended on these myths. Even though younger women now know that treatment or medications do work, there is still a large number that believes it can be “prayed away”. Hence, mental health problems are often ignored or neglected at some point and time. Stigma also plays a huge part why black women don’t seek help, because we are often known as the backbone of most families. When daddy isn’t around, we take on the man’s role, so no time to be sick or depressed.


Lack of Insurance


Since the case of mental health is mostly known to black women living in the U.S., the black culture is still lacking in coverage in the insurance systems. According to recent findings, 13% of African American women have no health insurance. This has greatly affected our women and men to this day. This is a frequent problem in African American communities, lack of education and treatments. Which then results, in police interactions, and the social violence we spoke of earlier. Having no insurance at all then leads to misdiagnoses, which then results in suicides and domestic violence against a partner or family member. The statics are loud and clear; we just have shout even louder to let everyone know in our communities that it’s ok not to be ok. It’s ok to seek help, or tell a friend too.


I’m Olivia Shepherd, and as a sufferer myself I would love to get the word out about mental illness and the stigma that surrounds it. It was very hard at first to open up, but after wanting to take my life more than once, I realized I had a problem and I needed help. I was ridicule, judged, and even made fun of, but I sought the help I needed. Although I’m not cured, and recover is still some time away. I intend to share my story, my journey with you all with the hopes of saving at least one soul. 



Olivia Shepherd (Ms. Fran)










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