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Coping With Depression As A Person Of Color

People of all backgrounds can and do struggle with depression. We’re not talking about occasionally feeling down. Depression is a diagnosable mental health disorder that requires professional help. If someone has a family history of depression and is highly stressed, the risk increases.

For people of color (POC), the incidence of depression is particularly high. Thirteen percent of Americans are Black, but yet 20 percent of Americans with depression are Black. Some of the reasons for this trend are listed below. More importantly, how can POC cope with depression while taking steps to reverse the disproportionate rate within their community?

Why are POCs at a Higher Risk for Depression?

Obviously, reasons will vary from person to person — regardless of their ethnic background. That said, some clear-cut general causes have been identified. These include:

  • POC experience trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder more often than other ethnic group
  • In addition, generational trauma is common within POC families
  • People of color more often struggle with unresolved grief and loss
  • Facing ongoing discrimination 

When a person or group of people live in a society that judges them based on the color of their skin, it’s draining and daunting. Negotiating your way through such hostility can feel like a full-time job — not to mention having to advocate and protect oneself. This daily effort creates space for depression to become more prevalent. On top of that, it’s been found that the impact of ongoing racism can be passed down via DNA.

How a Depressive Disorder Impacts POCsa person of color

Classically, depression involves intertwined physical signs and symptoms like:

  • Persistent sadness — every day for much of the day
  • Swings in one’s appetite with correlating weight loss or gain
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Feelings of emptiness, shame, guilt, and hopelessness
  • Body aches, pains, and tension that have no clear explanation
  • Loss of concentration and focus
  • Inability to make decisions
  • Sleep issues (too much or too little)
  • Fatigue
  • No longer enjoying activities that once gave you pleasure (including sex)
  • Ongoing thoughts of death, self-harm, and suicide

Depression should never be downplayed, but what’s a POC to do?

Coping with Depression as a POC

Connect with Other POCs

Since people of color frequently face discrimination when seeking medical help, it can be very validating to reach out to other POCs to discuss what you’re going through. In-person or online groups can offer solace and solidarity with others who understand the struggle.

Remember: Depression is not a Flaw or Weakness.

POCs have faced hardships all throughout history. This does not mean you can’t have problems today. You can celebrate progress without downplaying your own pain. Take your mental health seriously and safeguard your well-being regardless of what some people think about it.

Look Out for Guilt Trips from Fellow POCs

There are far too many stigmas within the POC community. To avoid such counterproductive traps, do your homework and reassure yourself that:

  • Being depressed and seeking therapy are not signs that you’ve turned away from or rejected your faith. For the record, you can always seek help from a mental health professional and someone in the clergy.
  • “Cheer up” or “Snap out of it” are not helpful or realistic responses to someone with depression.
  • Having mental health struggles does not make you weak. On the contrary, asking for help requires true courage.

So, What’s Next?

As you can see, this is a complex combination of factors and variables. It would be ideal to connect with a practitioner who is not only trauma-informed but also understands the cultural issues at play. Therefore, I invite you to schedule a free consultation soon for depression therapy.