3 Facts about Black Women and Depression



Depression is a massive health concern among African-Americans — particularly women — but mental health is rarely discussed in the African American community. Since mental health is such a taboo subject in the African-American community, we are the least likely group to be treated or to seek treatment for depression. We are also less likely than other groups to even acknowledge it as a serious problem because of the shame and embarrassment that it can cause.

Statistics report that:

  • Adult blacks are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.
  • Adult blacks living below poverty are two to three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty.
  • Adult blacks are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites.
  • And while blacks are less likely than whites to die from suicide as teenagers, black teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers (8.2 percent v. 6.3 percent)

In 2010, African American women reported feeling sad more than 1.6 times more than Non-Hispanic White women. Two of the criteria for major depression are a loss of interest or pleasure in things that used to be enjoyable and loss of energy. As a result,  African American women are 1.7 times more likely than White women to report that everything is an effort all of the time. So, African American women are more sad, experience less pleasure and expend great energy just to get thru the day. What a horrible way to live! The quality of life has to improve for African American women.

Fact: Depression is treatable.

Even with the large disparities in depression, the CDC finds that just 7.6 percent of African-Americans sought treatment for depression compared to 13.6 percent of the general population in 2011. Thus, African American women are suffering in silence and refusing to seek treatment. Psychotherapy is an option, but so are acupuncture, meditation, medication and dietary changes. There are various options to treat depression, and it may take more than one tactic to alleviate the symptoms.

Fact: You do not have to live with it.

Depression is an illness just like asthma. Would you go to work each day without your inhaler? No, you would utilize the resources that you have to maintain your health. So, why is seeing a counselor or getting prescribed anti-depressant medication any different?

Fact: There are African American mental health professionals and physicians that can assist you in your community.

Check your local listings for counselors, psychologists and social workers. Check the yellow pages, local psychological associations and websites in your area. Search the Association of Black Psychologists website and find your local chapter. Begin there to find African American psychologists that treat depression or other mood disorders.

Some St. Louis Teachers Address Ferguson With Lessons On Race


October 28, 2014 4:38 PM ET


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4 min 22 sec
Vincent Flewellen leads a lesson on Ferguson during his eighth-grade multicultural studies course at Ladue Middle School.

Vincent Flewellen leads a lesson on Ferguson during his eighth-grade multicultural studies course at Ladue Middle School.

Tim Lloyd/St. Louis Public Radio

This story is a consolidated version of a three-part series by St. Louis Public Radio that profiles how issues of race and class sparked by Ferguson are being discussed in St. Louis-area schools.

It was early September and Vincent Flewellen had just wrapped up his day teaching at Ladue Middle School, in an affluent suburb about 13 miles south of where protests erupted in Ferguson.

Flewellen was in a good mood, but he knew he could be in for a difficult night.

Less than four weeks had passed since Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, sparking countless protests.

Students in Missouri were enjoying the last few days of summer vacation when the protests broke out. For some teachers around St. Louis, the events in Ferguson presented a chance to teach about race in a new, more meaningful way.

According to a report by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, the St. Louis region is the sixth most segregated metropolitan area in the country.

Flewellen, an African-American in his early 40s, was on his way to an event for teachers at Saint Louis University “to learn more about how to teach Ferguson. How to teach this whole ideal of racial understanding and racial healing,” he says.

On his way to the event, Flewellen was waiting in traffic.

“A car pulls up next to me, driven by this middle-aged, older white man, who then takes his hand, his right hand, and reaches it across his passenger seat in the shape of a gun,” he says.

Flewellen says the man then aimed his index finger at him and cocked his thumb like the hammer of a pistol.

“Bang, bang,” Flewellen says. “He does that like seven times to me. I’m just looking at him like in complete disbelief.”

Frustration coursed through Flewellen’s body. He thought about calling it a night.

But he didn’t.

He went on with the evening as planned, spending his time with teachers who want to untangle complicated issues of race and class.

Four weeks later, Flewellen is standing in front of his multicultural studies class.

He turns to a whiteboard where the day’s topic is written in big, blue letters.

“Ferguson,” Flewellen tells the class, “we’re going to continue with our conversations about race and racism in Ferguson.”

He then asks students to pair up and talk to each other about how they think life experiences might differ between white and African-American residents.

Miriam Sokora and Alivia Brock are sitting next to each other.

“I’ve never thought that I would be walking down the street and get pulled over by police saying, ‘What are you doing?’ ” Sokora says.

“As for me, I have to look around the street all the time,” Brock replies. “Since I’m black, I have to walk around the street and look for police officers. Sometimes I even have to put my hands up a little bit just to show I have nothing.”

“I think that’s sad,” Sokora says.

Flewellen says facilitating this type of conversation between his students helps him make sense of his own wounds.

“I think you either become bitter or you’re determined to bring about change,” he says.

But not all teachers are ready to take on issues of race and class.

“These conversations will become uncomfortable,” says Brian Hutchison, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Bernice King speaks with students at Riverview Gardens High School about nonviolence.

Bernice King speaks with students at Riverview Gardens High School about nonviolence.

Tim Lloyd/St. Louis Public Radio

Hutchison has been helping area schools figure out what to do when students bring up Ferguson in class.

He says some teachers just want to change the subject.

“It’s a buffering mechanism, so that we don’t actually have to talk about something that’s difficult,” he says.

But the topic isn’t being ignored at Riverview Gardens High School, where about 60 teenagers took part in nonviolence training put together by the King Center.

Many students in this school live close to the shooting site.

As part of their final exercise, they formed small groups to talk about what could happen if a grand jury chooses not to charge the police officer involved.

Senior Elantra Jackson has a strong opinion.

“I’m not going to lie and say, ‘Everybody’s going to be like, oh, OK,’ ” she says. “There’s going to be some damage done to the city.”

To be clear, Jackson says she has no intention of taking part in any kind of violence.

But many students here think Wilson should be indicted, and facilitators ask them to plan a nonviolent response to whatever the grand jury decides.

Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s youngest daughter, has visited the area four times since the shooting. She considers each of the students in this room an ambassador for nonviolence.

“My father was angry,” she says. “We call it righteous indignation. But he channeled that anger into something positive and constructive.”

And as the St. Louis region awaits the grand jury’s decision, administrators at the school hope that this training will help both students and the community handle whatever comes next.

Reflections of a Puerto Rican Teaching US Latina/o Literature in the Midwest


Reflections of a Puerto Rican Teaching US Latina/o Literature in the Midwest.


By: Marisel Moreno

Some years ago, a good friend and colleague intimated that he did not understand why so many of us academics – especially literature professors – take our jobs so seriously. After all, he said, “what we do isn’t that important.” At that moment his comment made sense to me, and in fact, helped me maintain a certain sense of perspective during those trying years of dissertation writing and pre-tenure stress. However, I’ve never been able to forget those words, and the more I think about it, the less I agree with the statement. After fifteen years teaching US Latino/a literature at a midwestern university, I am convinced that what we do matters much more than we care to admit. Allow me to explain.

Teaching U.S. Latina/o literature – whether diaspora Puerto Rican, Dominican-American, Salvadoran-American, Mexican-American, etc. – at an institution where the majority of the student body is white and middle/ upper class, has carried a significant responsibility. In many cases, I am the first  – and oftentimes the last -“Latina” (not to mention Puerto Rican) professor my students will have during their undergraduate career. Over the years some of my students have told me that I’m the first “Latina” they have gotten to know. A bigger number has confessed not knowing anything substantial about this heterogeneous group we call “Latina/os,” including reasons for migration or exile, or the legacy of (neo)colonialism, (neo)imperialism, and violence that characterize the histories of Latin American nations. Teaching U.S. Latina/o literature has allowed me to help them fill those gaps, to recognize the role that the United States has played in those histories – details that have been conveniently left out of school curricula – and eventually, obtain a better grasp of their own histories.

It isn’t a secret that literature, as Junot Díaz has said, is something that allows us to be “more human.” This is why I consider literature to be one of the best instruments to promote social transformation. We can spend an entire semester trying to explain to our students the complexity of the process of migration, but reading the works of Chicano poets Luis Rodríguez y Francisco X. Alarcón, or the poems of Puerto Rican Martín Espada, allows them to gain a deeper understanding of what migration means. We can try to explain what it is to be a migrant farmworker, but it won’t come close to the impact that the works of Puerto Rican author Fred Arroyo or Chicanos Tomás Rivera and Helena María Viramontes often have. We can try to explain the toll that racism and prejudice can take on individuals, families, and societies, but it suffices to read Piri Thomas’ Down These Mean Streets to gain a better understanding of these societal problems. We can try to teach about the repercussions of United States foreign policy in Latin America, but nothing compares to hearing the echoes of victims’ voices that we find in the poetry of Salvadoran William Archila and Guatemalan Víctor Montejo. In other words, literature is an instrument that allows us to better understand the “other” and ourselves; and it allows us to reflect and dialogue about topics that are typically controversial, uncomfortable, or even painful.  The increase in xenophobia and anti-immigrant rhetoric following the 9/11 terrorist attacks have rendered U.S. Latina/o literature an instrument to promote understanding and social justice, both from the outside and among different U.S. Latina/o sub-groups.

Literature is a powerful tool in and of itself, but complementing it with service to the community exponentially increases its impact. For the last nine semesters, I have taught U.S. Latina/o literature courses with a community-based learning or service-learning component. This type of pedagogy bridges theory (class contents) and praxis (experience in the community), and usually promotes deeper learning. Depending where students perform their volunteer work, their experience can be comparable to a type of mini-immersion that forces the student to negotiate an “unfamiliar” environment. In other words, the experience forces them to break the bubble that college can be.

Given the demographic profile of our students, my CBL courses have fomented interaction, friendship, and solidarity, between my students and the local U.S. Latina/o community. Here in South Bend, this population is largely working class and of Mexican origin. Tutoring and mentoring pre-K to 12th grade children at La Casa de Amistad – a local non-profit organization that serves Latina/o families – has allowed my students to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that (im)migrant families face in this country. Needless to say, the partnership between my classes and La Casa de Amistad has proven to be mutually beneficial. In fact, I venture to say that it is my students who have benefited the most as they have gained a perspective they did not have before. It’s not the same to read about undocumented migration than to befriend a child who has recently been separated from a parent due to deportation. It’s also not the same to read about the education gap among Latina/o children than to observe its roots and impact on the children. These kinds of situations force students to think critically about the social problems that minorities face, and their personal connections to people in the community add a sense of urgency that inspires them to do something about the inequality they witness.

Overall, one of the most common realizations my students experience throughout the semester – and which they record in class journals – is becoming aware of their privilege. But they also express their disappointment about not having studied any U.S. Latina/o literature or history in high school. Semester after semester they express their disbelief when they learn about all of the important facts and details that have been conveniently left out of their history lessons. Studying the history of each Latina/o group we cover (Harvest of Empire by Juan González is a staple in my courses) allows students to make connections between the role that the United States played in that history and the presence of each of those groups in this country today. In other words, the literature they’re exposed to and the work they do in the community serve to counteract the demonizing discourse about immigrants and Latina/os that the media continues to perpetuate.

There is a wealth of U.S. Latina/o literature available today, including a strong body of children’s literature. Latina/o children need to read these works. Non-Latina/o children also need to read these works. We can all do more work in our communities in order to teach Latina/o and non-Latina/o youth the importance of civic engagement. We are all parts of the same social fabric, and our words can help create unity. Literature is one of the best weapons we have against ignorance, prejudice, and injustice. Let’s use it.


marisel_morenoMarisel Moreno, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of US Latina/o Literature at the University of Notre Dame. Her book/ libro Family Matters: Puerto Rican Women Authors on the Island and the Mainland, was published by the University of Virginia Press in 2012. She has published articles on US Latina/o literature in several academic journals (Academia.edu). In 2011 she received the Indiana Governor’s Award for Service-Learning for her US Latina/o literature and CBL courses. Follow her on Twitter: @marisel_moreno