Everyone feels sad at times. Life has its ups and downs and this can result in us getting the proverbial “blues.” As uncomfortable as this reality may be, it is normal and inevitable. However, for some folks, that depressed feeling just keeps returning. And it stays longer and longer each time.
For people of color (POC), this is a particularly common trend. For example, Black Americans make up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population. Meanwhile, they also comprise 20 percent of those struggling with depression. It’s time we take a closer look.
Depression and POC
People of any ethnic background or nationality can be at risk for depression if, for example:
- There’s a history of mental illness in their family
- They deal with chronic stress
- They do not practice healthy habits when it comes to nutrition, sleep, and exercise
For POC, you can add to that list by including trauma — both current and generational. The POC community has a long history of unresolved grief, discrimination, and loss. This can be a daily reality. In addition, it is believed that the impact of long-term racism can be passed down via DNA.
Being judged solely on the color of your skin sets a person (and a community) up for the draining daily process of navigating a hostile environment. People of color have to protect themselves, advocate for themselves, and soothe themselves.
Needless to say, this day-to-day effort takes a heavy toll on POC of all ages. It can and has been shown to contribute to a higher incidence of major depressive disorder.
Common Depression Symptoms
- Dramatic changes in appetite
- Sudden weight loss or gain
- Unexplained aches, pains, and muscle tension
- Sleep disturbances
- Digestive issues
- Feeling hopeless, empty, shameful, and guilty
- Persistent sadness
- Inability to focus, concentrate, or make decisions
- Losing interest in activities you once enjoyed (including sex)
- Thoughts of death, dying, and suicide
Coping With Depression as a Person of Color
Do Not Accept the Myths
Just because POC have historically overcome incredible hardship, it does not mean you can’t struggle today. One has literally nothing to do with the other. In your current situation — and with the likelihood of generational trauma — you do not have to explain or justify your pain to anyone. Depression is not a “weakness.” It’s a diagnosable disorder that requires professional help — just like any medical condition.
Do Not Accept the Guilt Trips
Also, there has long been a stigma within the church about mental health care. If you are a person who follows a certain religion, you may be hesitant to do so. Seeking treatment for something like depression is seen as a lack of faith. Remember:
- Getting mental health treatment is not a rejection of your faith
- No one can just “snap out of it”
- Again, depression is not a sign of weakness
- True strength lies in asking for help
That said, there is absolutely no reason that you can’t take parallel approaches. Reach out to a therapist and to someone in your church who understand mental health.
Connect Within Your Community
Increasingly, people of color are recognizing the realities of depression. It’s never been easier to connect — in person or online — with folks who get it. They get the mental struggle of depression and the daily struggle of systemic racism. In such a community, you can find solace, solidarity, and validation.
Let’s Connect and Talk Soon
There are so many moving parts in this conversation. Each of them — e.g. mental health, generational trauma, chronic discrimination, cultural norms, and more — can and must be addressed. I urge you to reach out. Let’s schedule you for a free consultation and get you on the road to recovery with depression therapy.