3 tips for overcoming stigma and finding strength in the struggle.
We all know that society inflicts many forms of injustices on people of color. As people of color, we also know that this is an ongoing issue, and has been going on long before the national discussion that arose around the tragic murder of George Floyd last spring. Disturbing events like his unjust murder are an unfortunate part of our reality, along with the many other stressors we face like doctors who don’t listen to us, bosses who don’t recognize our skills and talents, and watching everyone around us (who look like us) struggle with many of these same issues.
On top of all these common issues that people of color face, women are hit with additional stressors because of unrealistic beauty standards, the expectation that we should manage social relationships, and an unequal share of household responsibilities. The last one is a doozy if you’re a parent or caretaker — women of color are often both — especially right now, when many schools are closed and we’re more likely to have jobs that put us at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.
So it’s no wonder that women suffer from higher rates of mental health issues like depression and anxiety than men. Black women, in particular, experience a higher lifetime risk of PTSD in general. The question is why aren’t more of us talking about it?
Access to Quality Healthcare and Stigma
The long and terrible history of racism in medicine hasn’t magically fixed itself. Just a few weeks ago, a Black doctor died from COVID-19 because of the racist treatment she received in her hospital. So, when studies show that people of color report better mental health than White people, is that because that’s true or is that because we don’t trust our doctors enough to tell them? Of course, we’re less likely to receive care even if we do ask for it (example) and this is only relevant if we are even lucky enough to have health insurance.
“When studies show that people of color report better mental health than White people, is that because that’s true or is that because we don’t trust our doctors enough to tell them?”
The other important issue that we need to talk about is stigma. People of color are more likely to report feelings of stigma than our White peers. One study showed that 63% of Black people in their study viewed depression as a “personal weakness.” Another study showed that the majority of Latinx people in their research said that clinical diagnoses are “very socially damaging.” Our Asian peers experience stigma and shame because of cultural norms that attribute mental health issues as some sort of defect that reflects their entire family.
While we can’t do anything about a prejudiced healthcare system, at least in the short-term, we can certainly do things to overcome stigma, which would prevent so many of us from suffering in silence.
3 Tips for Overcoming Stigma and Finding Strength in the Struggle
- Make time for self-care. A lot of us are so busy juggling work, family, relationships, and our aspirations that we don’t take enough time to check in on ourselves. Our friend and certified Life Coach, Teniqua Pope, recommends regularly tracking our emotions in a journal to make sure that we don’t lose sight of our mental health. Her journal, Self. Centered: A 30-Day Guided Journey to Radical, Unapologetic, Life-Affirming Self-Love, provides great writing prompts to get you started on thinking about how you’re managing your self-care while reminding you that it’s okay to prioritize yourself from time to time. In fact, it’s necessary, so that you can thrive in other areas of your life.
- Dump perfectionism and speak out. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes and we all have our struggles. Talking to someone we trust, like a close friend, about our struggles can really help us gain some perspective on our thoughts and remind us about the positive aspects of ourselves.
- Remind yourself that you are worthy of love and help, even in your darkest moments. When we’re struggling with our inner demons, it’s easy to get caught up in all the negative self-talk. Shut that inner voice off by using mindfulness techniques and positive affirmations. You can do this by taking a three slow, deep breaths whenever you feel overwhelmed and then repeating positive statements such as “I am worthy. This is hard but temporary, and I can overcome this.” This wise girl provides an excellent demonstration:
We can overcome this, ladies. Whatever you’re going through, you’re definitely not alone. Many of us are struggling right there beside you.
When we struggle, we learn, which makes us smarter and stronger. That means we’re always coming out the other side as a better human. The sooner we acknowledge this, the sooner we can start to crush the stigma.
In the meantime, let’s start crushing the stigma together. Reach out to people you love to make sure that they’re not suffering in silence.
Why are so Many Women of Color Suffering in Silence? was originally published in HEAL • THY • HABITS on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.