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Shattering the Superwoman Schema: A New Look at Black Women’s Mental Health

May 22, 2024

May 22, 2024

In a thought-provoking episode of Successful Black Parenting’s podcast, Janice Robinson-Celeste hosts an in-depth discussion on Black women’s mental health in America. The episode, part of Mental Health Awareness Month with Leigh Higginbotham Butler the Founder and CEO of Akina Technologies, sheds light on the pressures Black women face, often encapsulated in the “superwoman schema,” and explores ways to dismantle these burdens.

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The superwoman schema describes the societal expectation for Black women to handle everything — from work and home responsibilities to community and emotional support — without showing signs of stress or seeking help. “Black women are disproportionately burdened with this schema, leading to suppressed emotions and significant mental health distress,” Robinson-Celeste notes. According to the Mental Health Technology Transfer Center Network, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious psychological distress than white Americans, yet Black women are about half as likely to seek mental health care.

Joining the podcast is Leigh Higginbotham Butler, a three-time startup founder, two-time nonprofit founder, and mother of three. Butler, who founded Akina, a support platform for Black mothers, discusses her experiences and the critical need for mental health support. “We’ve always had to stay strong, but this expectation can be mentally exhausting,” she explains. Butler emphasizes the importance of self-care and shares her personal strategies, such as taking mental health breaks and maintaining open communication with her family.

“African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious psychological distress than white Americans, yet Black women are about half as likely to seek mental health care.”

The discussion also highlights the alarming statistic that Black female high school students are 60% more likely to attempt suicide than their non-Hispanic white peers. This, Butler suggests, is a reflection of the pressures trickling down through generations. “The trauma and pressure we face don’t stop with us; they affect our children too,” she says, urging a focus on mental health education and support for the younger generation.

One of the significant barriers to seeking mental health care is the cultural stigma surrounding it. Historically, mental health issues were not openly discussed in Black communities, often relegated to private, hush-hush conversations. Butler recounts her own journey to accepting the need for professional help, encouraged by her sister’s perspective on the value of an unbiased opinion. “We are starting to talk about it more, and that’s a crucial first step,” she asserts.

In a split screen, host janice robinson-celeste interviews leigh higginbotham about black women's mental health

Butler advocates for platforms like Akina, which offers a mental health section with articles, group sessions, and access to therapists. She also recommends blackfemaletherapist.com and blackmaletherapist.com, which provide resources tailored to the Black community. “Our goal is to create a supportive and understanding community where seeking help is normalized and accessible,” she says.

Robinson-Celeste concludes the episode with a call to action, encouraging listeners to engage in conversations about mental health, check in on friends and family, and support platforms that offer mental health resources. “We need to make these discussions part of our everyday lives, not just during Mental Health Awareness Month,” she urges.

The episode of Successful Black Parenting’s podcast not only brings attention to the mental health crisis among Black women but also provides practical insights and resources for creating a more supportive community. As Butler eloquently puts it, “Change starts with awareness and action. Together, we can make a difference.”

The Successful Black Parenting podcast shines a much-needed spotlight on the mental health struggles faced by Black women due to the superwoman schema. This episode not only highlights the importance of addressing these issues but also offers practical solutions and resources to foster a more supportive community. By normalizing conversations about mental health and providing access to professional help, we can begin to break down the barriers that prevent Black women from seeking the care they need.

As Leigh Higginbotham Butler poignantly remarks, “Change starts with awareness and action. Together, we can make a difference.” The journey towards mental well-being is ongoing, but with continued dialogue and support, there is hope for a healthier, more empowered future for Black women and their families.

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