How to Support Your Strong Friend — And Yourself
It’s time to dispel the myth of the strong Black woman, for good
Amid the fifth month of a global pandemic, continued anti-Black violence around the world, and the gendered oppression Black women face, sisters’ common refrain remains “I’m okay.” Even if Black women are overwhelmed, there is the expectation they will endure it with the bravery and strength associated with Black womanhood. Perhaps that is why news of Tamar Braxton’s hospitalization, following an alleged suicide attempt, took many by surprise. This comes a month after authorities ruled the death of beloved writer and journalist Jas Waters a suicide.
This seems unusual for sisters, especially Black women like Tamar and Jas. When news broke, fans and loved ones of both commented on their bubbly personalities, otherworldly strength, and ability to persevere. That this would become part of their narratives was irreconcilable for some. The data would agree. Statistically, Black women are least likely to take their own lives. Within mental health data, this phenomenon is known as the “Black-White paradox.” Essentially, it suggests that Black women should be as prone to suicidal ideation and attempts as their White and non-White counterparts. Yet as many sisters suggest they lean on God and their family to navigate mental health crises, therein lies the problem. While women are twice as likely than men to experience a major depressive episode, Black women are 50% less likely to seek help compared to White women.
Dr. Raynia McGee, a board-certified licensed psychiatrist in Columbia, South Carolina, says Black women comprise roughly only a quarter of her patients. As research suggests anxiety is more chronic and intense for sisters than other women, McGee says most of her Black women patients are also being treated for major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After being referred by their therapist, primary care physician, or gynecologist, McGee says she has to spend a significant amount of time helping Black women release guilt. “Many of them believe they have failed themselves, their families, and God by coming to see me,” McGee says.
“Even with our friends, we have the tendency to minimize things. We already…