BLACK MENTAL HEALTH
African Americans Biggest Mental Health Problem Is The System
Addressing the structural racial incompetencies disproportionately impacting mental health treatment in the Black community
A recent report in Mental Health America (MHA) found that of the 13.4% population (nearly 46 million people) of African Americans in the United States, over 16% (roughly 7 million people) officially reported having a mental illness in the past year; —not accounting for the unreported cases currently living with a mental health condition. Despite the dire need for mental wellness in the Black community, only one and three (on average) Black adults with mental illnesses receive treatment.
Envision a stadium-filled Black community and think, only one in three.
In addition, African Americans are also less likely to receive consistent care and are less frequently included in mainstream mental health research. In fact, those of us with mental illnesses are often encouraged to visit the emergency room or primary care rather than mental health professionals, which speaks to a larger problem in the health industry.
Not only does racial bias, stigma and judgment hinder African Americans from the mental treatment they deserve, but I am willing to argue that most mental health professionals are not culturally competent enough to treat our specific conditions.
Because mental health disparities have existed in the Black community for some time, African Americans often misunderstand their mental health conditions. This can often lead to us creating negative perceptions around the topic and viewing mental illness as a personal weakness. Also, the overwhelming disparity has left treatment issues more complex; — creating additional independent barriers unique to Black men and Black women.
For example, Black women officially reported experiencing serious psychological distress at a higher rate than any other racial demographic. However, Black men die from mental health related causes at a higher rate than any other racial demographic. This demonstrates that both Black women and men experience mental distress at a high rate, but the approaches to…