Edmonton agency studies the mental health challenges of Black motherhood
After her first baby, Millicent Asiedu was determined to be the perfect mom, doing it all, just like she had seen her mom and other mothers of African descent do.
But the Edmonton social worker soon came to realize that what she dubs “the strong Black mom syndrome” was impractical … and exhausting.
“That’s what we’ve been taught to aspire to, and it’s not realistic because we’ve seen how detrimental it’s been for our mothers, just looking at how they never really took time to take care of themselves,” Asiedu said in an interview Monday.
Asiedu’s journey to self-care was the inspiration behind her organization Mesh of Mothers Foundation, formed in 2021. MOM is now launching initiatives to address the gap in Canadian data and resources for the mental wellbeing of Black moms.
“The more we know, the better we’re able to put resources in place for us to thrive and to find joy and resiliency within our lives and to support each other,” Asiedu said.
“We need to create those spaces to decrease those stigmas for people to actually realize that they’re not alone and that if they are experiencing these things they can access resources out there.”
Greater risk of postpartum depression
Asiedu said data shows Black, Indigenous and mothers of colour are at greater risk of postpartum depression but “that’s where the statistics stop.”
There is also a hesitancy among Black women to talk about challenges around mental health, she said, for fear of looking weak or possessed, based on traditional beliefs.
This Saturday, Mesh will hold an event that includes a panel discussion titled ‘Black Motherhood From Our Lens.”
Panelist and provisional psychologist Denise Stacey said it’s also a widely held misconception that religion should be enough to help someone cope with challenges around mental health.
She said she hopes Black mothers leave the conference knowing they can access safe non-faith based spaces when they are feeling anxious or having an off-day.
“Black mothers were sort of trained through the generations just to keep everything in and not really talk about how we’re truly feeling, any struggles we may have,” Stacey said.
“So for them to come together as a community, know that they have that space and it’s OK to talk about your mental health and that you are struggling, and to find those individuals within your circle to rally around you.”
With its focus on building community, MOM has also created a WhatsApp group that has attracted 60 members.
The agency is creating a database of Black health practitioners including psychologists and doulas.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.