African Americans and Mental Health

After posting an entry about African American men and their mental health (A Real Man), I thought it would be perfect to discuss about African Americans, in general, about mental health. I have been wanting to discuss this topic for a while. Why? Just like the discussion of men having mental illnesses, the topic about African American’s mental health, is a topic that is swept under the rug.

Well, as a black female who tries to manage my own mental illnesses, I want to break this cycle. Because the research is alarming. For the past year, 16% of African Americans have been diagnose with mental illness. That is over 6.8 million people. If you don’t know how much 6.8 million people is, then let me pain you a picture. Combine all the people of Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia, and that would be an equivalent of about 7 million people. When you think about it, it’s a lot!

On top of that, African Americans are more likely than white people to die from suicide as teenagers,.Black teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than white teenagers (8.3 percent v. 6.2 percent). Blacks of all ages are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime than are non-Hispanic whites, making them more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Blacks are also twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

dza5gidn45amfivfqqx3zwui6e3956562174548856165.jpgWith some of these facts, you would think that more blacks would reach out for help. Unfortunately, due to the stigma, many refuse to get the necessary assistance that is much needed. Also, because of the struggles of being black, many blacks believe it’s “normal” to feel depressed. The truth is that depression is not a normal part of life for any African American, regardless of age or life situation. Unfortunately, depression has often been misdiagnosed in the African American community. The following statements reflect some common misconceptions about African Americans and depression, “Why are you depressed? If our people could make it through slavery, we can make it through anything.” “When a black woman suffers from a mental disorder, the opinion is that she is weak. And weakness in black women is intolerable.” “You should take your troubles to Jesus, not some stranger/psychiatrist.” The truth is that getting help is a sign of strength. People with depression can’t just “snap out of it.” Also, spiritual support can be an important part of healing, but the care of a qualified mental health professional is essential. And the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it can be.

Research indicates that African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. Furthermore, many believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family. Which is something I kinda face. My brothers know about my mental illness and they are not ashamed of me. They still love me for who I am. However, I feel like conversations about depression or my experience with depression just seems like, it’s not something to be brought up. Or if so, it has to be lightly and quickly changed to a different topic. I’m not sure if it makes them uncomfortable or the fact they are men; and getting into details in a topic like this beans they have to be sensitive. Which is something they don’t want to do. I don’t know the reason, but it just seem like, it should be something that has to be under the table.

gettyimages-740523653-5af91742a18d9e003c0c39fc3530298983563849291.jpgAnyway, despite progress made over the years, racism continues to have an impact on the mental health of African Americans. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection have decreased, but continue to occur with measurable, adverse consequences. Historical and contemporary instances of negative treatment have led to a mistrust of authorities, many of whom are not seen as having the best interests of African Americans in mind. Historical adversity, which includes slavery, sharecropping and race-based exclusion from health, educational, social and economic resources, translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by African Americans today. Socioeconomic status, in turn, is linked to mental health: People who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated or have substance abuse problems are at higher risk for poor mental health.

So what can be done to resolve this issue? Obviously, bring more mental health education to light within the community. As well, we need more black psychologist because some mental health care practitioners are not culturally competent enough to treat specific issues. I just hope my story and laying down some facts will help African Americans to get the help they need. For more information, please watch the video below.


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