On Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, Pace University’s Black Student Union (BSU) members gathered to discuss the ongoing mental health effects on the university’s students and the black community at large. The assembly included a guest speaker who is a certified psychologist and therapist specializing in helping black men and women of all ages acknowledge their culture to grow and develop healthily and mindfully. So, what is the adultification of black women, and how has society’s psychological construct of African Americans shaped how black Americans view themselves in the world? The BSU assembly focused on bringing these issues to light and having a conversation and discussion with the university’s students of color.
The adultification of black girls stems from irritability being identified as anger or aggression. In reality, it can be underlying anxiety and depression that these black women are facing as a result of not feeling like they can receive the help they need. During the assembly, the psychologist stated, “I don’t think that many black women know that irritability can be a symptom of anxiety and depression, and that is because of the stigma around black women who are told that they need to be ‘strong’ when in reality they can be struggling.” Too often, mental health is ignored in the black community, and this is a severe problem. The psychologist stated that over 4.8 million African Americans are diagnosed with mental health disorders in the United States, and 1.1 million have harsh mental health conditions that are not completely treated. Many people in the black community deal with past trauma or society-promoted insecurities that are rarely addressed. So many African Americans deal with racial insecurity, and it is rarely, if not at all, discussed.
The lecture also discussed ways young activists can acknowledge and bring awareness to the mental health and violence issues prevalent in the black community without disturbing their personal mental health goals. There are so many crises happening in our world today (i.e. climate change, gun control, social justice movements), all of which are important to address but aren’t something that one should stay fixated on. The therapist suggested that, “rather than trying to take care of the entire world, focus on what can be done in your own block of the world, asking yourself what can be done on your campus, in your living environment, or in any organizations that you may be a part of. Find a like-minded community and stick with them because that will be your best bet, in the end, to be able to talk to one another about the issues that you are most passionate about.” In the stressful times of life and in society, it is imperative to focus on yourself and take care of your mind and body, but it is equally as essential to have a space full of people that you feel safe with.
Lastly, we must remember the importance of therapy. Therapy can be a lifesaver for some people. In the black community, therapy is underrated because it’s ‘not necessary,’ or family members believe that their loved one is just ‘stressed-out’ or ‘going through a phase.’ These are all ignorant and damaging stereotypes thrown at black individuals that need to be stopped as soon as possible. You never know what someone might be going through, and invalidating their feelings is just another addition to the emotional build-up that’s been settling for years. We want people in the BIPOC community to find peace with themselves and their racial identity. Rather than pushing aside these tough conversations, let’s find healing to prevent self-destruction in our black communities.