Strong Black Women? Investigating the role of intersectionality in the experience, treatment, and outcomes of common mental disorders among Black women.


Supervisor: Janelle Jones

Non-accademic partner: Catalyst 4 Change & Black Thrive

Common mental disorders (CMD), which include depression and anxiety, are a major global mental health concern. In Britain, women are disproportionally affected by CMD (19% women versus 12% men) and ethnicity adds an additional layer of disadvantage, with Black/Black British women experiencing higher rates of CMD relative to White British women (29.3% versus 20.9%). Despite this increased prevalence, Black/Black British women are less likely to seek and receive treatment, and more likely to experience poor outcomes (e.g., maladaptive coping, detention under the Mental Health Act). Understanding and addressing these mental health inequalities are imperative to ensuring that all members of society can access and obtain the support needed to fare well. Drawing on the framework of intersectionality in general, and the Strong Black woman schema in particular, the proposed research will investigate how and why gender and race might work together to shape the experience, treatment and outcomes associated with CMD among Black women (e.g., Black British women; women with Black-African and Black-Caribbean backgrounds). Through a systematic review of the literature, focus groups, an international cross-sectional survey, and in-depth interviews we will test whether beliefs and expectations about being what it means to be Black and female shape the experience of CMD, and whether these intersections, in turn, influence treatment and outcomes. Findings will provide important insights into the lived experiences of Black women with CMD as well as helping us to identify barriers to treatment and predictors of poor outcomes. This research will be conducted in partnership with Catalyst 4Change (Birmingham) and BlackThrive (London), organisations that work to develop and support Black British, African and Caribbean mental health and well-being in the United Kingdom. Our partners will help us to embed this research in the community, by connecting us with a range of stakeholders (i.e., practitioners, people with lived experiences, policymakers) to form a research advisory board. Our partners will also support our main research activities of participant recruitment, connecting us with Black women from the community with CMD, and with dissemination, by working with us to translate and findings into suitable recommendations for commissioners and service providers. This work will also add to the literature on intersectionality more broadly, providing important qualitative and quantitative data on its roles in mental health.