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  • Writer's pictureDr. Shaenor Ishmael

Navigating Mental Health Through the Lens of Black History: Maternal Mental Health and Mortality Disparities

Updated: Apr 8

Maternal mental health is a crucial aspect of well-being within the black community, especially in

light of the alarming maternal mortality disparities among black women. According to the

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black women are three times more likely to

die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Moreover, black women experience higher rates of postpartum depression, anxiety, and trauma than other racial and ethnic groups.


These disparities are not new but rather reflect a long history of systemic racism, oppression, and violence that have impacted the mental and physical health of black women for generations. From the horrors of slavery and the Jim Crow era, to the ongoing effects of police brutality and mass incarceration, black women have faced multiple forms of trauma and discrimination that have eroded their trust in the healthcare system and their access to quality care.


To navigate these challenges, black women need to be empowered with knowledge, resources, and support that are culturally relevant and responsive to their needs. Some of the strategies that can help improve maternal mental health outcomes for black women include:

  • Increasing awareness of the signs and symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and the importance of seeking help early.

  • Reducing stigma and shame around mental health issues, and creating safe spaces for black women to share their experiences and emotions.

  • Providing culturally competent and trauma-informed care that respects and honors the diversity and resilience of black women.

  • Addressing social determinants of health that affect maternal mental health, such as poverty, housing, education, and employment.

  • Advocating for policy changes that improve access and affordability of maternal health care, and that hold health care providers accountable for eliminating racial biases and disparities.

By taking these steps, we can honor the legacy of black history and the contributions of black women to society, while ensuring their well-being and dignity in the present and the future.


Black mothers face unique challenges to their mental health, as they cope with the effects of systemic racism, oppression, and violence that have plagued their community for generations.


To address them, we need to support black mothers in ways that are culturally relevant and responsive to their needs. Some of the methods that can help improve maternal mental health outcomes for black mothers include:

  • Listening to their stories and validating their emotions. Black mothers often feel silenced, ignored, or dismissed by the healthcare system and the society at large. By listening to their experiences and acknowledging their feelings, we can show them that they matter and that they are not alone.

  • Educating ourselves and others about the history and the present of racial discrimination and violence against black women, and how they affect their mental health. By learning about the root causes and the consequences of these issues, we can raise awareness and challenge the stereotypes and biases that perpetuate them.

  • Empowering them with knowledge and resources that can help them cope and heal. Black mothers need to know the signs and symptoms of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, and the importance of seeking help early. They also need to have access to affordable and quality mental health care that is culturally competent and trauma-informed.

  • Advocating for policy changes that improve the conditions and opportunities for black mothers and their families. Black mothers need to have a voice and a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making and policy-making that affect their lives. They also need to have their rights and their dignity respected and protected by the law and the society.

  • Celebrating their strength and their contributions to the world. Black mothers are not only survivors, but also leaders, innovators, and creators. They have made and continue to make positive impacts in various fields and domains. By celebrating their achievements and their legacy, we can inspire and encourage them to pursue their dreams and their goals.

By taking these steps, we can support black mothers in their mental health and well-being journey, and honor the spirit and the essence of black history.


If you enjoyed reading this, kindly follow ‘Inspired Counseling Centre’ on Facebook, and Instagram for more tips and resources on maternal mental health.


For therapy, support, and scheduling an appointment, kindly reach out via email info@inspiredcounselingcenter.com


Dr. Shaenor Ishmael

Maternal Mental Health Therapist






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