Researching Black Maternal Mental Health
Trigger warning: Mentions of suicide and mental distress.
My name is Joshua A. Daniel and I am a psychology major with a minor in sociology and a concentration in counseling, and I'm graduating in May of 2024. There are a multitude of reasons as to why I’ve chosen to pursue this path of clinical psychology – the first and most important reason being mental health issues amongst African Americans.
This is something that we all struggle with, but psychological issues within the African American population are substantially exacerbated when compared to other races.
In the United States, suicide is a major public health issue, and recent research has demonstrated that African Americans are more likely to commit suicide. African Americans account for a significant number of suicide deaths in the United States, making it the 10th most common cause of death. In the workplace, healthcare and education, African Americans frequently encounter discrimination and unequal treatment. As a result of this discrimination, individuals at risk for suicide may experience feelings of hopelessness, despair and isolation.
Because I am of color, I’ve dealt with these issues firsthand. I feel like everybody wants change, but nobody wants to actually work toward it or change themselves. I came to the realization that if something could be done then something should be done.
So why not start with me?
After lectures, my professors would always inform the class of research opportunities and recommend us for them. Also, I am very thankful for my older sister, who was already in an abundance of programs, who could put in a good word for me. As for my actual research, I am working within the Program for Research on Anxiety Disorders among African Americans (PRADAA) Lab.
This research facility is under direct supervision of the renowned Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett.
Presently, I am conducting research on Black maternal mental health and ways that it can be improved. Black maternal mental health refers to the mental health of Black women during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. It is a topic that requires attention as Black women face disparities in healthcare that affect their mental and physical health during and after pregnancy.
This research begins with literature research that will expand into a full-on investigation conducted over the summer through the McNair Program.
Black women are at a higher risk of experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs) such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during and after pregnancy. The lack of access to quality healthcare, systemic racism and microaggressions from healthcare providers exacerbate the issue.
Black women also face discrimination from society, which can lead to stress and depression. With racism, discrimination, low-income families, mass incarceration and a multitude of mental health stigmas associated with the African American population, we need more help than given.
I hope that my findings can produce lasting results within the African American community.
It is essential to prioritize Black maternal mental health to ensure the health and well-being of future generations. Working alongside a psychology professor, especially someone like Dr. Barnett, is great. She has pushed me to become the best iteration of myself I can be while simultaneously showing me grace and patience. I wouldn’t pick another professor to work with.
At Kent State, I've also had the opportunity to study abroad. The experience has been nothing short of sensational. Florence, Italy is amazing. My expectations were high before leaving but to have them be exceeded was beyond belief. One of my good friends actually talked me into going the day before the deadline to submit the application was due, so I was like, “why not?”
If you are considering studying abroad, just do it.
It’s a once in a lifetime experience that can’t be replaced. I’ve already seen Paris, Pisa, Venice, Rome and Sienna and I still have a month left before leaving. Someone who likes traveling should definitely take up this opportunity.
I would say that studying abroad forces you to grow. While you are taking in the city and traveling almost every weekend, there’s a certain level of maturity that is thrust upon you. You’re in a new country and have to get acclimated to a new culture within months, and that can be difficult at times.
Kent State is a good school. They have some incredible programs and even more incredible people. The staff will look after you as well. If you’re going through a rough time, you can tell your professor and they will be more than understanding. If you need help with financial aid, there are people that will bend over backwards to help you out. Kent State will take care of you.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, Kent State University offers several resources that can be found on our mental health webpage. You can also call the National Suicide and Crisis Hotline by dialing 988.