Black Women and the Truth About Mental Health
According to statistics fewer than half of black women who need mental health care receive it, and the other half carry the “I’m a strong Black woman” mentality that hinders them from receiving the care that they need. I recently had an opportunity to sit down and speak with the amazing Stephanie A. Jones about Black women and mental health. She gave me so much insight on the truth of Black women receiving care and what hinders us from receiving the care we need.
Stephanie A. Jones, LCSW, MSW is a Licensed Psychotherapist and owner of Lifestyle Management Counseling Center based in Jacksonville, FL. She is also the Founder and Creative behind Women at Werk, a women’s empowerment, networking, and lifestyle brand. Ms. Jones is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and has received countless awards and recognition for her dedication as a public servant to her local community.
Stephanie A. Jones, LCSW, MSW / Licensed Psychotherapist
PQW: How does mental health in Black women differ from any other race?
SJ: Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder among black women. Black women carry a lot of bricks in their backpacks that weigh them down. Oftentimes Black women carry the load of being a single mother, caring for their parents or being there for everyone else, neglecting themselves.
This can cause signs of anxiety and depression, but oftentimes symptoms are ignored. A lot of times black women will speed through life to keep pushing forward, but ignore symptoms. Symptoms such as fatigue, irritation, insomnia and inflammation in the body, however, I love that we are starting to have more conversations around the stigma of mental health and breaking down stereotypes surrounding Black women.
PQW: How do we as Black women learn to take time for ourselves?
SJ: I often hear not just from Black women, but from minority women, that they don’t feel like they can give themselves permission to take care of themselves. I would love to see more women choosing themselves and implementing stronger boundaries. Women must speak up and say “No” if they can’t do something, and not feel bad or let others make them feel bad for what they unable to do.
Being that “strong black woman” and that “angry Black woman” will get you in trouble every time. We as Black women embody those stereotypes and we take them on a lot of the time. By saying things like “I’ve got it under control” “I’m good” or “I can handle it” we prompt “automatic responses so as not to feel vulnerable. I think we as women have a hard time getting over what other people put on us and what other people think we should be.
PQW: What are some action steps we can take to set boundaries?
SJ: Keep a calendar, this not only creates healthy boundaries, but this allows you to see if it is even feasible for you to do what is requested. Stop trying to just make things fit in your schedule, but truly see identify if it will work with your schedule. I tell my friends all the time if it’s not on the calendar it’s not going to happen.
Also ask yourself the question, “What can I do that doesn’t feel like work?” Don’t take on so much that it causes you more stress and suffering. You must also have an accountability partner who will encourage you to make changes and decrease your load. A good resource to use is the Breath App, which will remind you to slow down, take a deep breath and fill your lungs with air. Also, take time to disconnect from the world.
This includes not answering emails or phone calls and just taking time for you. It’s also good to take a mental health day. This includes doing what you need to do for you and taking the time to listen to your body. You must be disciplined with your time, disciplined with energy and disciplined with what ‘home’ feels like. This truly matters when it comes to setting boundaries and being beneficial to your health.
PQW: Is there anything else you want Black women to know about their mental health?
SJ: You must be willing to acknowledge when things are not ok. Instead of being quick to say everything is ok, let someone know how you are truly feeling. Don’t excuse yourself to really acknowledging when things are honestly are not ok. Acknowledge it to someone else or to yourself that you are not ok. Then ask yourself, “what’s is the solution?” You must have an outlet to share your feelings.
This could be going to church, talking to your spouse or even speaking with a therapist. Be careful of the outlets you choose, because every outlet is not a healthy outlet. For example; don’t start drinking every day because that’s your outlet. This type of behavior will cause other problems and we don’t want to compound problems with more problems. You must take the time to manage your mental health and be purposeful when it comes to finding a solution.
The same way you take cold medicine to treat a common cold, give similar attention to you mental wellness. But when it comes to mental health challenges people just deal with it. Lastly, when you are looking for a therapist ask questions. It’s ok to ask the therapist if they have ever worked with women and men of color? At the end of the day, it must be a good fit for you and the therapist.
PQW: Tell me about your organization Women at Werk?
SJ: Women at Werk stemmed from my work as a licensed professional counselor. From there I started hosting events to help women become more transparent in their life. Women at Werk seeks to bridge the unique experience of every woman. Empowerment is the goal and we are #StrongerTogether! Our events attract women from diverse backgrounds and industries who are looking to connect and collaborate with other like-minded women in their community.
Next month, we are hosting our 2nd Annual Women at Werk Empowerment Conference. It will take place on Saturday, January 12, 2019, in Jacksonville, Florida. For more information visit www.womenatwerk.com.
PQW: How can people connect with you?
SJ: Lifestyle Management Counseling Center, LLC
Jacksonville, FL 32256
Tel: 888-443-2713 ext. 1