Black Mental Health Matters

July 17th, 2023

Black Americans are Less Likely to Seek Mental Health Care: 

  • Mental illness affects 1 in 4 Americans however, African American adults are 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population. 
  • 13.4% of the U.S. identify as black of African American. Over 16% have reported suffering from mental illness (approx. 7 million people which is almost the entire population of Arizona – Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service) 
  • Only 25% of African Americans seek mental health treatment, compared to 40% of white Americans. –Mclean 

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing in Black Communities: 

Our Black communities are suffering in silence. Suicide is currently ranked as the third leading cause of death for Black men in ages 15 to 24 and Black adults in the U.S. are 20% more likely to report persistent symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and suicide compared to non-Hispanic white adults. Despite the needs, only 1 in 3 Black adults struggling with mental illnesses will receive appropriate treatment. More than likely the treatment that is received will come from an emergency department rather than a mental health specialist. Subsequently, Black individuals are more likely to receive a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia when expressing symptoms related to mood disorders or PTSD.

Mistrust in the Medical and Mental Health Systems: 

To begin to understand why nearly 50% of Black Americans distrust the mental and medical systems in the U.S. we need to understand how the systems began. The founders of psychoanalysis and other early treatments of mental illness were white men. These early models of mental health care were established to treat white middle to upper class families. The models overlooked the strengths of Black families, which include extended kinship ties, an openness to taking on different family roles, and an emphasis on spirituality. Not only that, there are also historical cases such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiment (1932-1972), in which Black people were subjected to medical experiments without their permission.  

The root of mental health struggles among Black Americans can be traced back to colonization. Trauma can actually be passed down through a person’s genes in a process called intergenerational transmission and this stress can cause changes to their reproductive cells. This can also cause changes to uterine environment where a fetus develops. Because of this, people whose ancestors experienced trauma may be vulnerable to mental health conditions. Individuals who did not experience a trauma directly may have inherited trauma symptoms, such as anxiety or mood dysregulation.  

Building a Culture of Mental Health for Black Communities:

Black Men Heal
Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective
  • Group aimed at removing the barriers, getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing – 
Black Mental Health Alliance
Therapy for Black Girls

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