I met Imade Nibokun during the first conference for digital and print publication, Heed Magazine. We were both contributing writers and I ended up sitting by her during lunch. I was struck by her ease in providing social and cultural commentary on a range of topics. A few years later, we reconnected through mutual friends and writing interests, and this is where I heard about her in-progress book and social media initiative “Depressed While Black”.
Imade describes herself as ‘a music journalist turned non-fiction writer discussing mental health treatment and African-American culture’. She has presented at the National Black Women’s Life Balance & Wellness Conference at Spelman College and teamed up with Brunch Culture podcasts to talk about her work. She shared her story on BET Network’s video initiative called ‘What’s At Stake: 60′ and her in-progress, nonfiction book, ‘Depressed While Black’, will provide commentary on life at the intersections of race, gender, spirituality, and mental health.
I sought her work out specifically to feature on this platform and appreciated its alignment with the mission of this site. Typically, I ask for quotes to use in the Faves Features as I further explain the work. However, Imade’s writing is profoundly beautiful, so to stay true to her voice and mission, all text below is hers, used with permission:
“My name is Imade and was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder in December 2012, days after I sped on a Los Angeles highway wanting to die. I honestly thought I was diagnosed with disease that only White people experienced but I later found out that 1 out of 10 African-Americans experience depression in a given year. The biggest lesson I learned is that mental illness isn’t a sign of inferiority, spiritual or otherwise. I got a therapist and despite being told I didn’t pray enough, I started using antidepressants. If I didn’t ask for help, I’m not sure I would be alive today. I decided to share my experience in my work-in-progress book, Depressed While Black, to create a safe space where others can ask for help. Through social media channels, I share articles and my own story in hopes of de-stigmatizing mental illness.
Depressed While Black was birthed out of my need for help as I was scratching and clawing for the will to live. I needed people who were consistently aware of what I was going through so they could encourage me when depression was saying I’m worthless and alone. Depressed While Black is simply one black woman asking for help, and finding a supportive community.
My target audience is African-Americans dealing with depression who are searching for a community that normalizes their experience. In my own journey as a black woman, I faced stigma that prevented me from having a language to describe what my mind was doing. When I did identify the depression, I was told that I should have prayed and asked a pastor to pray for me. I did both of those things and still struggled with depression. I had few people I felt safe to talk to without fear of victim blaming. I experienced therapists who did not understand black culture and advised me to do things that were not applicable to my life. Once I got over the stigma, I didn’t have the money to be hospitalized or have outpatient therapy. I also had no one else to consult when it came to using antidepressants. Once I graduated, I lost my health insurance and in my unemployment, I lost a safe space to live where I was not shamed for what I was feeling.
There is a myth that black people are superhuman. That only white people cry or are depressed. There is a myth that if our ancestors endured slavery, then we have nothing to complain about. There is a myth that we should just talk to our pastors, although not all of them are trained to deal with the treatment of mental illness. My most important counter-cultural narrative is that every African-American is worthy of mental healthcare. From the strong black woman single mothers, to our ancestors who experienced unimaginable torture, to the pastors who have to preach one funeral after another. We do not have to earn self-care by struggling the way our ancestors struggled. Just by our sheer existence, we are deserving of mental wellness.
Pictured here with co-presenter, Dr. Simone
African-Americans need affordable mental health treatment from culturally competent mental health professionals. We need skills to counter what depression and society tells us. We also need safe healing spaces where we can recover from the micro-aggressions we experience daily.
So, I encourage, inspire, and empower by speaking on panels that despite how much you struggle, you’re worthy of receiving help. Depression doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I share stories of people who have hit rock bottom, including myself, and found ways to prioritize self-care on the journey to recovery. In speaking out about depression, I challenge the lies that African-Americans are not intellectual beings or that we are immune to pain and suffering. We hurt, we cry, and we become weak even as we present our strength to the world. African-Americans deserve mental health treatment that is tailored to our needs”.
You can read an excerpt of Imade’s upcoming book, ‘Depressed While Black’ here and follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/DepressedWhileBlack, on Twitter @. I also encourage you to read more of her writing over on Tumblr! Special thanks to Imade for this brave work!