Social media platforms like TikTok have become home to conversations on mental health. Videos on Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder - or ADHD - have generated billions of views. The majority of them are posted by white creators; however, Black women have begun creating safe spaces to discuss their own experiences.
Jordan Crawford is the content creator behind the TikTok account “ADHDwhileBLACK,” which has over 50,000 followers. She makes videos about her daily life and struggles in relation to being a Black woman with ADHD. The 30-year-old says she was reluctant to join the app but gave in during the pandemic.
“There weren't people that looked like me that were representing the ADHD community, because people were flocking to me ‘oh, I’ve felt this way and I never thought about getting it checked out,’” said Crawford. “So just giving those people that permission to explore and get checked out. That turned into my reason. That's my reason now. But I really didn't have an intention before.”
A study published in 2021 by JAMA Network Open showed white children with ADHD were more likely to be diagnosed with and treated for it compared with Black, Hispanic, and Asian children with ADHD.
As a result, while ADHD doesn’t discriminate by gender or race, white males are still more likely to be diagnosed and treated for the condition than anyone else. Women, specifually non-white women are often ignored or misdiagnosed.
“The media and science has only portrayed ADHD to be this little white boy's disease. And it's not that - ADHD is much more nuanced. Mental health in general is much more nuanced. We can't just say one category of people tends to get this,” said Crawford. “So what ADHD looks like to an untrained doctor, they're not gonna recognize it in a Black woman. They're gonna see her as defiant. They're gonna see her as talkative, attitude, rude. All of these things that are symptoms of ADHD, right, talking out of turn, being impatient, and having emotional outbursts, all these things are symptoms of ADHD. But when you put them on a Black woman, all people see is an angry Black woman. They're certainly not going to give her a government-regulated medication to help her with that, definitely not.”
Jordan says that many symptoms she exhibited in her childhood were misunderstood by medical professionals and her own family. Jordan asserts that medical racism seeps into the mental health sphere, leaving Black women in the lurch.
“I've had a prescription for 10 years, and I still have to fight with a new provider to prove to them somehow that I need it, or that I won't function without it,” she said. “Black women aren't believed, Black women aren't cared for. They're not nurtured. They are expendable to the medical community, particularly when it comes to mental health.”
Although she enjoys sharing her story on such a large platform, she acknowledges that sharing mental health information online requires a nuance that some creators don’t have in order to avoid misinformation.
“I'll tell you my experience with ADHD. I'm not going to tell you that if you're experiencing this, then you have ADHD. My point of that video was to say, if you are experiencing these things, check it out. If you're experiencing these symptoms, go to a licensed professional and talk about them,” said Crawford. “Because as somebody without health insurance, I understand that that's not that easy. TikTok is a resource for people who don't have health insurance and self diagnosis is valid, it is real, because a lot of people don't have access to mental health resources. They don't have insurance. They don't have a regular doctor, even if they do have insurance, they don't know who to speak to. They're not comfortable speaking with their doctor, whatever those barriers may be.”
Jordan said she will continue to make videos for those looking for a community regarding ADHD, especially Black people.
“We're just here to share experiences and learn from each other. And I love doing it. I love Tik Tok. I will always be that millennial on Tik Tok. And as much racism as I experienced on tick tock is very annoying, but it's such an important tool and if it's able to get more information to more people where they need it, then I'll keep doing it forever.”