Believe Black Women
In the Black community, mental health issues tend to be overlooked, especially when it comes to women and girls. There are only two ends of the spectrum: you’re either “crazy” or you just need to shake it off. We’ve been conditioned to have little empathy and a lot of misconceptions.
Research shows that being a Black woman makes us more susceptible to anxiety and depression, however less than 20 percent of us seek treatment. Many factors contribute to this with the most being negative attitudes surrounding getting help. It’s an immediate judgment that therapy is just “telling all your business.”
Last week, singer Summer Walker announced that she was canceling 20 dates on her Over it tour, due to her battle with social anxiety:
“Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to finish this tour because it doesn’t really coexist with my social anxiety and my introverted personality,” Summer explained in a video post. “I hope that people understand and respect that at the end of the day I’m a person, I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad. It’s just a lot. I don’t want to lose myself for someone else. I want to give y’all what I can, so I’m going to keep making music and I’m going to do a few shows, but I can’t finish.”
“I truly appreciate all the support and love. As you know, I have been very open about my struggle with social anxiety. I want to continue to be healthy and to make music for y’all, so I have decided to cut down some of the dates on the tour,” she wrote. “I hope you all can understand. I’m grateful for every single one of you, and I hope that you understand that wellness/mental health is important. All canceled dates will be refunded asap. Thank you.”
Unfortunately, our society has trouble believing Black women. Summer Walker expressed that she’s not okay. She’s willing to set aside her career and potential earnings for the sake of her mental health. However, haters were quick to sprinkle doubt and come up with their own reasons why she would do this.
More often than not, their arguments center around the faulty logic that people with social anxiety are incapable of enjoying themselves in public. Therefore, any sign of Summer having a good time was used as proof that she must be lying. The outright attacks on her revealed two glaring truths:
The general public is ignorant concerning matters of mental illness. We have a narrow idea of what anxiety is supposed to look like and we dismiss anything that doesn’t fit into that box.
We are insanely vicious towards Black women who demonstrate vulnerability regarding their mental health.
During the Soul Train Music Awards last Sunday, Summer took to the stage to receive her award for Best New Artist. It was obvious that she struggled through her acceptance speech, and was visibly uncomfortable. Social media called her weird, slow, and even went as far to say that she was faking. Some asked how she could take photos and attend the after-party if she couldn’t make it through a speech.
Summer Walker’s social anxiety continues the much-ignored conversation about the way Black women with mental health issues are perceived and treated. Ultimately, the solution to overcoming social anxiety is getting help. Not seeking help just amplifies the problem and continues to weigh you down with even more scary thoughts.
Summer’s Over It is one of the best albums of the year. But her transparency about her mental health and understanding what she needs deserves celebration too.