By Allison Foster
May is known for being Mental Health Awareness Month, but it’s never too early or too late to address the topic of mental health. Everyone knows that your overall well-being is heavily centered around your mental health. Everything you consume, from food to television, music, and more, can have an effect, so it’s important to acknowledge and understand what brings you joy and happiness, as well as those things that can trigger you or make you feel down in the dumps.
Many factors contribute to your mental health, including genetics, neighborhood, family history, and much more. Because no singular experience is unique, finding ways to cope with issues like anxiety, depression, or PTSD is imperative. As support for cannabis legalization increases, more individuals are turning to Mother Earth’s most iconic plant to improve their livelihood.
While many cannabis consumers have openly shared stories about how cannabis has improved their mental health, some research suggests there are still risks. Sources, such as The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, say that people who frequently consume cannabis are more likely to develop temporary psychosis and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia.
The reality is that everyone’s experience with cannabis will be different—which is why we always recommend starting low and going slow. Consuming responsibly and at a pace that best suits you and your needs is incredibly important, so remember to read the packaging on your cannabis products to know the exact dosage of marijuana you’ll be consuming.
Although there are risks associated with marijuana and mental health, there have also been studies and reports on how cannabis can help decrease anxiety and muscle tension and increase appetite for those who struggle with eating disorders or other illnesses. To say the least, studies on the effects of marijuana on mental health are complex, but it’s still easy to recognize that the harsh realities of life and everyday living are felt, even now, more than ever. The cost of living, constant inflation, prices on necessities such as food and housing, utilities, car maintenance, and everything else in between has skyrocketed. It’s safe to say all of us have had enough, but as a Black woman myself, I honestly feel that these pressures and struggles have caused my own mental health to feel less than optimistic about the future from time to time.
Too often, African-American women will try their hardest to muscle their way through anxiety and depression. We’re brought up always to be the “strong Black woman” who always shows up for everyone and never lets anyone see them sweat, but in our times of deep need, we can find it incredibly hard not to have it all together and just be vulnerable. Many times, our mothers and their mothers fell into the role of mother and father to their children, which could also bring on financial and emotional stress. But during our parents' time, topics such as mental health and mental disorders were rarely discussed, if ever.
In an online medical article, Johns Hopkins University Assistant Professor Dr. Erica Martins Richards reports women are at least twice as likely to experience an episode of major depression as men. Compared to [our] White counterparts, African-American women are only half as likely to seek help.
Along with the “strong Black woman” trope, accessibility also plays a role. Unless insured through an employer or having the funds to afford your own personal therapist, the average cost for a basic therapist can run from $100- $200 an hour. While that price may seem affordable to some or most people, circumstances can significantly differ for everyone—especially for women who may be single parents, work jobs that pay minimum wage or less, or take care of loved ones' family members.
In an article published by Nursing Research, they note the research gap in examining Black women and depression symptoms, although Black women have an increased risk for depression. From the number of Black women who participated in the study, it was reported that Black women have greater depressive symptoms and reported more somatic symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, decreased libido, and self-critical symptoms, including self-hate or self-blame.
While all of those things remain true for many Black women, including myself, who have high-functioning depression, we have also been able to take a stand and no longer allow these symptoms to fully control our lives.
Millennials and Gen-Z are much more open to discussing mental health and wellness. Addressing topics such as generational trauma, speaking with doctors and other medical professionals about our mental health and the effects it has on our overall well-being, and taking ourselves to therapy have been just a few ways we are addressing issues head-on.
There are numerous options out there for cannabis, so I encourage all my stoner sisters to spark joy and light up. Continue to be great, sis.