June 17, 2024

Black Women Share Strategies To Support Entrepreneurial Mental Health

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal according to Fundera, about 20% of small businesses fail within their first year and about 50% of small businesses fail in their fifth year. For Black women business owners, these figures may be even more significant; JP Morgan Chase reported that black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs but face some of the biggest barriers including disparities in earned income compared to their peers and lack of access to capital. Also JP Morgan Chase noticed that’s when black women do apply for financing, the rejection rates are much higher than white business owners.

Business ownership is a journey in itself. Many business owners may be dealing with various mental health challenges at the same time, while dealing with the progress of the enterprise. Three Black women with different mental health experiences sat down to share their journeys and offer advice to current and prospective business owners who may be facing similar challenges.

“The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic brought unexpected challenges,” she shared Natasha Bowmanwho is the founder of Bowman Foundation for Workplace Equity and Mental Wellness. “The sudden break in my business started a mental health crisis because my identity was so 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 said community is a critical part of supporting mental health and wellness for Black women. “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.”

Recent diagnosis that Samantha Rae, EdD, MPH got a lot of things put into perspective for her. “It was a big clarification for me when I realized I was Autistic later in life. Although the journey has been a bit overwhelming and at times difficult, it has also been empowering. I now have a better understanding of my needs and how I can ask for support or accommodation and support myself.” The 19th reported recent data indicating that autism is now occurring at much higher rates in non-whites, women and girls and that Black women and girls, in particular, may be underdiagnosed; Autism presents differently in Black women, according to research.

“After receiving my diagnosis in 2019, I wasn’t quite sure what the next steps would be. Even though my doctor at the time was ready to offer me various interventions, I still felt like I was on shaky ground,” she shared Joquina Reed, who is a DEI consultant and decoloniser. “I decided to use talk therapy to treat my generalized anxiety disorder, PTSD and depression.” Reed echoed Bowman’s sentiments about the importance of community. “If I had to identify one thing that has helped me navigate my mental health journey, and becoming an entrepreneur, I would say it’s community. It wasn’t always easy to be transparent with my care system, but it was necessary … it created a space for me to get into the habit of saying things like, ‘Today, I’m struggling with my anxiety.’”

Business owners, especially sole proprietors, may be more hesitant or reluctant to ask for and seek help. Rae advises Black women business owners, “Accepting that you may need extra support is a strength, not a weakness…don’t be afraid to ask for help. As Black women, we feel that we need to be strong to survive while simultaneously grappling with the weight of the ‘strong Black woman’. We undermine this trope by asking for help and showing people that we are not always here to carry other people’s burdens. Whether it’s through professional counseling, community support groups like my app DEI Offload™, or lean on your own support system. Revive your mental health by finding support and love in a variety of ways.”

To be July Disability Pride Month and Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, is 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 be aware of how these experiences affect those with intersectional identities. We need to amplify the voices of those on the margins of society whose experiences are ignored. If nothing else, hearing stories like this can be a powerful reminder that whatever someone 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 the Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.

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