How ‘Queen Sugar’ Normalizes Discussion of Mental Health for Black Women

“There is still an active mythos of ‘the strong black woman,” explains a professor

charley bordelon west queen sugar

(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if  you haven’t watched Wednesday’s episode of “Queen Sugar”)

The most recent episode of “Queen Sugar” normalized the idea of black women seeking help for mental health issues in the most subtle, but powerful way yet.

At the start of Wednesday’s episode, Charley Bordelon West (Dawn Lyen-Gardner) is at her therapist’s office (who happened to be a black woman, yaaasss!) and was calling her son Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe) to see where he was because he was supposed to be joining her for their joint therapy session.

Once, Charley finds out that Micah isn’t coming, she attempts to leave the session and reschedule, but her therapist encourages her to sit back down and talk for the rest of the time they set aside because why not?

The episode doesn’t primarily focus on Charley at the therapist’s office nor do we explicitly see her expressing her mental health issues and directly asking for help, but that’s the point. It’s not a big deal.

By bringing up the therapy session in little bits throughout the episode, we are able to see how normal it actually is. When Charley calls Micah for their therapy session, he doesn’t act weird or indicate that he doesn’t need it. Later on when Bordelon mentions her therapy session to her sister, Nova, she doesn’t make a huge deal out of it either.

There’s no big discussion surrounding mental health and no one asks Charley 21 questions about seeing a therapist. It is what it is — a regular part of life.

It’s no secret that there’s a stigma in the black community regarding black women seeking help for mental health issues let alone even admitting that they might have them.

A study on black women’s beliefs about mental illness in the National Center for Biotechnology Information stated that even though black women struggle with mental illness, “their use of mental health services is low.”

That’s because there’s a stigma in the black community about mental health.

“Seeing a therapist is generally seen as a sign of weakness or a lack of faith. There is still an active mythos of ‘the strong black woman,’ who is supposed to be strong and present and capable for everyone in her family – and neglects her own needs,” said Monica Coleman, a professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions at Claremont School of Theology, in an interview with Raymond DePaulo, Jr. M.D., Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

According to the study, black women thought that they were not susceptible to depression and “they believed that an individual develops depression due to having a ‘weak mind, poor health, a troubled spirit, and lack of self-love’.”

“Queen Sugar” pretty much fractured that stereotype by including a normalized therapy session.

It showed that going to therapy and getting help for mental health isn’t a big deal and no one is going to shame you for it.