May 2011 - Young Black Mothers in Crisis

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May is Women's Health Month-and we've got a lot to think about. As women we do a lot of heavy lifting.  We take care of others-often better than we take care of ourselves.  But the question has to be asked-who's taking care of us?

In April of this year, a young African-woman-LaShaundra Armstrong, reportedly killed herself and three of her children by driving her minivan into the Hudson River. Officials say that Armstrong, 25, had all four of her children in the minivan when she drove it into the Hudson River. However, one child - 10-year-old Lashaun Armstrong - managed to escape by slipping out of the van before it sank below the waves.  By any measure, this was a tragedy for her entire family-and for Black motherhood.


As I thought about it, the real tragedy happened before this horrific drowning. As a single mother, Ms. Armstrong was juggling work, school, and caring for her four young children.  She was likely overwhelmed and exhausted.  However, she was not alone.  According to the Centers for Disease control, approximately 70 % of Black children are born out of wedlock. And like Ms. Armstrong, they are struggling financially and emotionally to take care of their children.  It's not easy and often they do not or cannot ask for help-for whatever reason.  But just because they don't ask for our help, does not mean that they don't need our help, or that we can't offer our help.

I talked with Dr. Fleda Mask Jackson, a psychologist and researcher in the area of Black Women and stress, as well as Dr. Joyce Morely, a licensed psychotherapist.  Each were able to provide some real insight into what these women are going through, the signs that we can look for that will alert us to the fact that they need our help, and what we can do to help them before they resort to desperate measures.  I invite you to listen to each of my interviews with Dr. Jackson and Dr. Morley and share your comments with us on our Journey to Wellness Facebook page.  You may recognize the signs in someone you know and be able to help before it's too late.  You'd be surprised at how something as simple as asking, "How are you doing?"  and taking the time to listen to the answer could be a life raft to someone who's drowning in emotional waters.

This mother's day, if you were lucky enough to have had a great mother-who loved you and provided a comfortable upbringing for you-give thanks and pay it forward to someone else who may be silently struggling to provide a decent life for her children.  That's true "Sisterhood" in action.

With you on your Journey to Wellness...


Dr. Mary Harris




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