Black Panther signals a revolutionary moment –- not only in its implications for Black culture, but also for Black mental health.
“At a very basic level, representation affects people’s identity,” said Dr. Ruth Shim, Director of Cultural Psychiatry and Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at University of California, Davis. “Having positive representations and people reflecting the diversity of what they can be and experience can be protective against depression and anxiety stemming from negative images.”
Indeed, Black representation in pop culture has expanded in recent years. Television shows such as “Insecure,” “Empire” and “Black-ish” feature predominantly Black casts. Films like the comedy-horror “Get Out” satirize racial disparities, while “Hidden Figures” and “Moonlight” portray different Black realities. But “Black Panther” forms a category all its own: Black superheroes and superheroines in a sci-fi world.
Take Wakanda, the fictional nation in which “Black Panther” is based. Wakanda is particularly evocative because it re-envisions reality. It asks not what is, but what could be. Imagine if racism, poverty, and chronic illness –- all risk factors for depression and anxiety disorders among Black Americans –- simply did not exist. They don’t in Wakanda.
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