• Kierstin Tonic

Tamar Braxton Shines Light on African American Women & Mental Health

Updated: Aug 13, 2020

R&B and reality tv star Tamar Braxton became headline entertainment news when Los Angeles police were contacted by her boyfriend for a medical emergency on July 16, 2020. It was later revealed she had attempted suicide after the stress of what she describes as the “systemic bondage” of reality tv had taken a toll on her. "I was betrayed, taken advantage of, overworked, and underpaid. I wrote a letter over 2 months ago asking to be freed from what I believed was excessive and unfair. I explained in personal detail the demise I was experiencing. My cry for help went totally ignored," she wrote in a letter to her fans via social media.

Just as any, and all, celebrity news, the gossip began to swirl. There were questions of foul play by her boyfriend. There was suspicion that all of this was a publicity stunt to draw attention to her new reality series on WeTV, titled Get Ya Life. There has also been chatter of her mental stability after scenes of blow ups and arguments with her family on Braxton Family Values and the abrupt exit on The Real talk show. In her statement she urged, “Mental illness is real. We have to normalize acknowledging it and stop associating it with shame and humiliation.”

Tamar’s statement points to a long history of stigma against mental illness within the African American community. In a study of Black men and women’s beliefs on mental illness, “Black and African Americans hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors. The participants in this study were not very open to acknowledging psychological problems, but they were somewhat open to seek mental health services”. Because of these apprehensions, mental illness has run rampant through community.

Access to mental health practitioners and counselors has also created a barrier for women seeking help. Insufficient or nonexistent health care and low wages make it difficult to retain these services. Those who are willing to seek counseling are not only apprehensive about the backlash of receiving treatment and medication, they are also worried about the affordability.

“Adult Blacks and African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites”, per a study conducted by the CDC. These negative feelings can be associated with systemic and institutionalized racism, recycled generational belief systems, poverty, and for women especially, gender inequality, lack of support in the household and societal pressures of body image.

Attempted and successful suicide rates have been on the rise in the black community between 2008 and 2018. In comparison to the overall U.S. population, those “aged 18-25, 9.5 percent (439,000) of Black and African American 18-25-year-olds had serious thoughts of suicide in 2018, compared to 6 percent (277,000) in 2008. 3.6 percent (166,000) made a plan in 2018, compared to 2.1 percent (96,000) in 2008, and 2.4 percent (111,000) made an attempt in 2018, compared to 1.5 percent (70,000) in 2008.”, as calculated by the SAMHSA’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

However, while most have been reliant upon prayer and upholding the stereotype that Black women’s strength is unbreakable, more and more have begun to seek mental health services. Resources are becoming more attainable both financially and physically. Black therapists such as Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, creator of https://therapyforblackgirls.com, are creating spaces for Black women and girls to seek therapists and information on mental health and the importance of self-care. There is also a surge in the coaching industry where people can receive a more focused approach to a specific issue in their lives.

If you or someone you know needs services here are a few to help get started on the path to better mental health. Please know that it is ok to ask for and seek help:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: call 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741, or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources

Therapy for Black Girls has a database of psychologists and counselors, as well as informative blog articles and links to the podcast. https://therapyforblackgirls.com

Crisis Text Line: text "STRENGTH" to the at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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