Abstract: "It's Important Too!" Young Black Women Perceptions of Mental Health within the Black Community (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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"It's Important Too!" Young Black Women Perceptions of Mental Health within the Black Community

Thursday, January 21, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Jaih Craddock, PhD, MSW, MA, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Balitmore, MD
Aliya Gladden, BA, MSW Student, University of Maryland, Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Oluwakemi Ajenifuja, MSW, MSW Student, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Brendaline Nettey, MSW, MSW Student, University of Maryland at Baltimore, Baltimore, MD
Background: According to the 2018 National Health Interview Survey, Black American Women aged 18 and over have higher proportions of “feeling sad all or most of the time” when compare to Latinx and White men and women and Black men. Recent research examining Black women and mental health have largely focused on the “Strong Black Women” idealization or on factors associated with mental health outcomes among Black women (e.g., racism, sexism, poverty and stigma). Although these studies are highly important, these studies have not captured the underlying influences of such potential barriers when addressing mental health and illness among Black women for interventions efforts.

Methods: To gain an understanding of mental health perceptions in Black communities and how young Black women (YBW) navigate discussions of mental health and mental illness with friends and family, 40 qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with YBW aged 18 to 24. Interviews were transcribed and co-coded for emergent themes.

Results: Thematic analysis of data revealed four main themes, (1) Black women must be strong, (2) lack of discussion about mental health, (3) challenges in talking about mental health, and (4) desires for Black women’s health. A majority of YBW described how Black women must be strong, often hiding their emotions from others. One participant stated,[Black women are] just like always trying to have that like everything is okay facade going on even when it's not. I think we're always like trying to be strong for everyone else and we don't ever like tend to look inside of ourselves and really get to the root of what's causing the issue. YBW also highlighted the lack of discussions around mental health in Black communities. Another participant stated,I think that currently mental health isn't discussed amongst Black women like it almost at all, especially Black households and I definitely think there's a lot of work to be done with that... YBW described challenges in talking about mental health with friends and family, “it's just not discussed or it's just like if you were to say to some people like, oh, I'm depressed. They might say like, what are you depressed about? You have this, you have this, you have this.Lastly, YBW spoke about desires for Black women’s health, So just as you would go see someone about your problem with diabetes, you should go see someone about your depression or anxiety. It's important too. It's a part of your health even though it's invisible ...which it’s not really invisible, but yeah.

Conclusions and Implications: This study highlighted many challenges with addressing mental health in Black communities, including lack of communication and education about mental health and misdiagnoses and perceptions of strength among Black women, and addressed desires of what YBW would like to see and experience in regards to mental health in the future. Findings from this study underscores the importance of framing mental health as a part of overall health and well-being and the need for mental health education and communication within Black communities.