Depression and Learning From Other Cultures–Part 1

Depression is very common within this community and according to numbers from various sources there are 7.5 million African Americans with wepression as a “diagnosed mental illness.” Up to the same amount are affected but undiagnosed and women represent more than twice the number of males with depression.

The questions that we need answers to for our own education are:

  •  Why don’t they reach out for help within the mental health system? What do they see as dysfunctional and damaging within this system? How do they perceive and cope with their own emotional distress?
  • The author that we reference below answers some of these questions and states that the voices and views of African American women have rarely been taken into account and they are an invisible population within the mental health system.

“To me, it seems perfectly adaptive and pragmatic for many of us to refuse yet another label and its associated prejudices and preconceptions. And, it is highly disturbing that we would be pathologized for, essentially, resisting further oppression.

Putting a medical label onto an experience does not make the experience any more or less real or painful. Nor does it validate it; all it does is just this: it gives it a medical label. The imprisonment of Black women’s experiences within a medical discourse needs to be questioned.

Indeed, it does not speak to all of us. Personally, it was only during the course of my psychology studies that I realized that this recurring feeling of imminent passing out had a medical term: ‘anxiety’ or ‘panic attacks.’ Calling this ‘anxiety’ did not provide comfort or reassurance. I did not think: ‘great, now I know what’s wrong with me.’ I felt angry. Angry and invisible. Angry and re-traumatized.”

Depressed woman photo available from Shutterstock

Depression and Learning From Other Cultures–Part 1

Margaret Altman, LCSW, MSW

Margaret Altman is a crisis intervention specialist and has intervened in many explosive situations within jails, emergency rooms, suicide prevention centers and psychiatric units. She is a featured writer on the Mad in America website and has more more than 35 years of experience as an LCSW in psychiatry, corrections and private practice. Her book, "Developing Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence" is on Amazon. Margaret currently focuses on issues of minority and marginalized populations in order to give them a voice in the mental health domain.


APA Reference
Altman, M. (2015). Depression and Learning From Other Cultures–Part 1. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 31 Jul 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Jul 2015
Published on All rights reserved.