3 Black Women Share Strategies To Support Mental Health As An Entrepreneur

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data revealed by Fundera, around 20% of small businesses fail within their first year and approximately 50% of small businesses fail in their fifth year. For Black women business owners, these figures may be even more staggering; J.P. Morgan Chase reported that Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs yet they face some of the biggest barriers including disparities in earned revenue compared to their counterparts and lack of access to capital. J.P. Morgan Chase also noted that when Black women do apply for funding, the rejection rates are significantly higher than white business owners.

Business ownership is a journey in itself. Many business owners may simultaneously be navigating different mental health challenges, while dealing with the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Three Black women with different mental health experiences sat down to share what the journey has been like for them and offered advice for current and prospective business owners who may be navigating similar challenges.

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic brought unforeseen challenges,” shared Natasha Bowman, who is the founder of The Bowman Foundation for Workplace Equity and Mental Wellness. “The sudden pause in my business triggered a mental health crisis as my identity had become closely intertwined with being a business owner. This crisis led to a suicide attempt and subsequent hospitalization, where I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.” Bowman shared that for Black women, community is a vital part of supporting mental health and wellbeing. “Surround yourself with a circle of like-minded Black women who understand your unique challenges. This support system can provide advice, guidance, and a safe space to share experiences.”

A recent diagnosis that Samantha Rae, EdD, MPH received put many things in perspective for her. “Realizing I am Autistic later in life clarified a lot for me. While the journey has been a bit overwhelming and sometimes difficult, it’s also been empowering. I now better understand my needs and how I can ask for support or accommodations and accommodate myself.” The 19th reported recent data that indicates that non-white people, women and girls are now experiencing autism at much higher rates and Black women and girls, in particular, may be under-diagnosed; autism presents differently in Black women, according to research.

“After receiving my diagnosis in 2019, I wasn’t quite sure what the next steps were. Although my doctor at the time was prepared to offer me a variety of interventions, I still felt like I was on shaky ground,” shared Joquina Reed, who is a DEI and decolonial consultant. “I decided to utilize talk therapy to treat my generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD, and depression.” Reed echoed the same sentiments as Bowman when it comes to the importance of community. “If I had to identify one thing that has helped me navigate my mental health journey, and being an entrepreneur, I would say it’s been community. Being transparent with my care system hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been necessary…it’s created space for me to normalize saying things like, ‘today, I’m struggling with my anxiety.’”

Business owners, especially solopreneurs may be more reticent or hesitant when it comes to asking for and seeking out help. Rae suggests to Black women business owners, “Accepting that you may need additional support is a strength, not a weakness…don’t be afraid to seek help. As Black women, we think we must be strong to survive while simultaneously navigating the weight of the ‘strong Black woman’ trope. We weaken this trope by asking for help and showing folks that we are not here to shoulder the burdens of others constantly. Whether it’s through professional counseling, community support groups like my app DEI Offload™, or leaning on your own support system. Getting support and loved on in different ways revitalizes your mental health.”

With July being Disability Pride Month and Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s an important reminder to center the experiences of the disabled community, as well as those with different mental health experiences. It is doubly important to also be aware of how these experiences impact those with intersecting identities. We must be amplifying the voices of those on the margins of society whose experiences are overlooked or ignored. If nothing else, hearing stories like these can serve as a powerful reminder that whatever a person is going through, they are not alone.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also reach Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.

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