Black Girl, Red State*: Dealing with Depression in Black Families

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*Disclaimer: Black Girl, Red State is a column. It deals with Race and Social Issues, and is devoted to understanding. It shares inner feelings of a Black student in a predominately White state. It is an opinion piece. The title and material are personal to the writer but provide a narrative that she believes is needed for readers to understand the message and feelings that she is trying to get across.

JUICE WRLD’s music speaks to the lives of so many young people. The rapper’s music addresses topics such as depression, prescription pill abuse, feeling alone, and the early deaths of many new millennial “legends.” The trauma of life makes young African Americans turn to the wrong outlet to let out their inner feelings. Before they realize they are numbing themselves it is too late. Addiction already begins to set in and like a football tossed on Sunday, you are lost in the wind.

Dealing with depression in a black household is not really dealing with it at all. You wish that it would get the same importance as a head-on collision crash. The stigma of depression makes you believe that you’re different. You’re treated like the black sheep, so to speak, and it makes you turn to other substances such as drugs, opioids, or alcohol. You end up in this isolated maze of problems, which you are dealing with on your own when surprisingly someone in your family has probably felt the same way but falls into a systematic cycle of suppressing it.

Simply ignoring a problem doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist and can leave you feeling very somber. Still, black families often do not speak of depression or even that it is a true illness. You are expected to show resilience and are conditioned to believe that it is not okay to be depressed and sometimes you even go as far as hiding your  symptoms in the presence of your parents. This is crippling. It makes you feel like you do not have anyone that you can talk to.

Within the culture, they use past traumatic experiences of our ancestors as an explanation for why we just can’t possess the ability to feel depressed. To feel like our world is crumbling or that life is beginning to chew you up and spit you out is always pushed under the rug and dressed up with phrases like “If slaves can get through that treatment you can get through everything” and “There’s people that cannot eat and they aren’t depressed, so how can you be?”

I remember hearing these comments in discussions as a kid and you cannot get a word in because you have to “stay out of grown folks business.” I wish that the business they tried to make us stay out of was actually a open discussion; maybe then I would’ve shared my beliefs instead of being shut out from telling your take on the situation at hand. This only continues to reinforce the idea that it is not okay to say when we are hurting on the inside. We’re good at faking the look of having it all out together when in the back of our minds we know that everything is exploding into flames.

We are actively reinforcing this mental illness. If we cannot remove the stigma we will continue to actively hinder another African American generation. There are mental health resources and counseling that could help us live a happier life. There is no such thing as being too strong to be depressed. It effects many of us daily. Especially because the cold weather and holiday season can add to depression.

Students who are in a new environment and have to adjust to being away from their families can fall into a depression fast. Many of our ancestors have possessed strong resilience during a time when hope was very little but I think it is safe to say that times have changed. This is a new era in comparison to the life your parents once lived. If you can break the chain, do so.

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