Black History Month: Black Mental Health Matters!

*DISCLAIMER: I am not a mental health or medical professional. I reference professional sources and talk from lived experiences.*

As October is Black History Month in the UK, we are focusing on mental health issues that affect the Black community and breaking the stigma around talking about Black mental health.

Black men and women experience different social, physical and hormonal feelings, pressures and changes that all play a part in the way in which we develop, act, think and feel.

This article was inspired by a recent Instagram post by Black Marbles Forum on the “6 Signs of Depression in Black Men” & “6 Signs of Anxiety in Black Women”, an image that displays the signs we should look out for in men and women who may be experiencing mental health issues. The image was created by Patrice N. Douglas, a mental health and relationship therapist based in California, and it depicts symptoms you may see in men and women who are battling with depression and anxiety. Follow her right here and find out more about her great work.

The image states that the 6 signs of depression you may see in Black men are:

  1. Physical pain;
  2. Loss of focus;
  3. Anger;
  4. Substance abuse;
  5. Sexual dysfunction; and
  6. Suicidal thoughts.

I have seen a number of these signs within myself when I was deep in my depressive moments, even as a someone who had “High Functioning Depression”. The symptoms listed could occur for various reasons outside of battling depression, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. If you see that any of these symptoms have occurred over a period of time and causing issues in different areas of your life, do go and speak to your GP and find out why you’re feeling the feelings you’re feeling and what can be done about it.

The 6 signs of anxiety you may see in Black women are:

  1. Stress in outgoings/events;
  2. Nervous habits;
  3. Goal avoidance;
  4. Worrying;
  5. Self-medicating; and
  6. Physical health issues.

A friend and fellow mental health advocate, Dionne, shared her experience living with anxiety. (Make sure to follow her and read more about her experiences of motherhood and having anxiety on her insightful website). See which signs of anxiety in Black women occurred in her story:

“Now that I am older, I have realised that I have had symptoms of anxiety from a young age when it came to pleasing people or feeling the strong urge to fix a problem. It wasn’t until my mid 20s when I found I was pregnant with my son, where it became uncontrollable.
During most of my pregnancy, I felt as though I could not control what was going on in anyway shape or form. I felt fear and worry for the future and was petrified that I was going to be responsible for another person. Like really? Me, little old me, responsible for such a small precious soul. I suffered from many panic attacks, overtime they got worse and worse and I didn’t know how to control most of what was going on. So, I was advised to go travelling alone, this was helpful and life changed a little bit on my return but anxiety was still a tenant in my life.
Since having my second child, I can control my anxiety a lot better because I am aware of its triggers. Some days are better than others but I get up and I keep trying because I have anxiety but anxiety does not have me.”

As more and more people share their mental health journey, it has become clearer to see that people are affected differently, show different types of symptoms and seek different types of help. There is no one size fits all when it comes to mental health issues and dealing with it.

So don’t feel that because you or someone you know show symptoms of any of the signs of depression or anxiety that they are suffering with it. NHS depression diagnosis states that if you experience symptoms of depression for most of the day, every day for more than 2 weeks, you should seek help from your GP. It’s particularly important to speak to your GP if you:

It is important to make sure that the correct steps are taken to ensure that you are aware of any symptoms and take the right next steps to seek help.

I wasn’t clinically diagnosed but became very aware of my change in character, emotions and thoughts and subsequent therapy sessions were able to highlight the correct labels.

As you’ve read, I’m sure you’ve seen that there’s no one way to detect whether you or someone is suffering from any mental health issues. They may be curled up in their room for days or an active friend who you talk to on a regular basis. There are more straightforward ways to find out – ask your friend genuine and simple questions about how they are.  “Create The Environment” and allow friends to be vulnerable and safe enough to speak to you. If you’re struggling, speak to your GP or book a therapy appointment. Just know that you’re not alone in your journey, issues or this life and there is always an answer to your problems.