Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. As a matter of fact, both of us (Miriam and I) suffer from it in various degrees. Studies have shown that for Black Women in particular anxiety is more pervasive. Episodes of it last longer and tend to be more intense than that of non-Black women.
So there’s statistics and then there’s perception. Many Black Women with anxiety are views as things other than that. In fact, research and history have pinpointed three different categories or images that we’re lumped into: the Strong Black Woman (SBW), the Angry Black Woman (ABW) and the Vixen/Jezebel. As we know, representation matters. Seeing predominantly these three representations does nothing but perpetuate the images further.
When you think of SBW a lot of people will picture their mother or grandmother who is known for resilience. It doesn’t appear derogatory off bat but it promotes the wrong picture. See, the belief is that she never needs help from anyone no matter what. That’s both inefficient and unrealistic. So when she inevitably does need help, then what is she supposed to do ?
The ABW is what I’ve personally seen and heard of most (Alexa, play Mad by Solange Knowles please!). The perception of this version of us is that we are weak and always ready to pop off at the mouth or at even more extremes no matter how minor the infraction. If that’s how you view us, image how you’d approach us. Automatically on the defense, which has ripple effects that in the end DO make us angry.
Then there’s the Vixen. One of the most infamous being Supahead (which at the ripe age of 28 I don’t know why my parents let me read her book at 13). This is the most objectified and sexualized version of us. It’s one of the reasons we’re so fetishized by other races.
Most women that do actually fall into these stereotypes suffer from some type of anxiety. Anxiety can make you afraid to speak up and ask for help, so you don’t. People mistake that as you being strong. With severe anxiety comes agitation and anger for sure. You’re always on edge. Some use their sexuality to soothe the discomfort of anxiety and as an escape.
Attacks on Black women such as sexual assault are 3.5x more likely than that of any other demographic. We are also much less likely to report the assault. Instead we suffer in silence and try to drown out the trauma. The thing is though, the problems won’t fix themselves. You have to work on it or it comes out and manifests in these ways.
So the goal should be on HEALING black women. How can we remove mental health stigma and the feelings of defeat in order to help Black Women heal and grow ? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.