Home Health & Education Blacks and mental health

Blacks and mental health

Why taking care of you should be a priority

by PRIDE Newsdesk
Mental health is often unaddressed in the Black community (photo courtesy of Getty).

by ReShonda Tate    

Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, yet it often goes unaddressed within the Black community. Understanding the unique mental health challenges faced by Black women, Black men, and Black youth is essential for fostering a supportive environment that promotes mental wellness.

Black women frequently encounter the ‘superwoman schema,’ a societal expectation to remain resilient and strong despite significant stressors. This pressure can lead to severe mental health issues.

By the numbers:

  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Black women are more likely to experience depression than their White counterparts but are less likely to seek treatment.
  • The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that only 7.6% of Black women with mental health conditions receive adequate care, compared to 20.6% of White women.

Why it matters: Addressing mental health in Black women is crucial to combating chronic stress, depression, and anxiety. Encouraging self-care, seeking therapy, and dismantling the superwoman stereotype can lead to improved mental health outcomes.

Black men face significant stigma regarding mental health, often exacerbated by cultural norms that equate masculinity with stoicism and emotional suppression. This stigma contributes to lower rates of mental health treatment and higher rates of untreated mental health conditions.

By the numbers:

  • The American Psychological Association (APA) highlights that Black men are less likely than any other group to seek mental health treatment.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that in 2022, only 26.4% of Black men with mental health issues received treatment, compared to 45.4% of White men.

Why it matters: Focusing on mental health for Black men involves creating safe spaces for expressing vulnerability and promoting therapy as a tool for strength, not weakness. Addressing these issues can reduce rates of untreated mental illnesses and improve overall quality of life.

Black youth face unique challenges, including higher exposure to community violence, systemic racism, and socio-economic disparities. These factors can lead to significant mental health issues if not addressed early.

By the numbers:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that Black youth are more likely to attempt suicide than their White peers.
  • According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 50% of Black teenagers with mental health conditions do not receive treatment.

Why it matters: Early intervention is key to mitigating long-term mental health issues in Black youth. Schools, community programs, and families must prioritize mental health education and resources to support young people. Creating environments where Black youth can openly discuss their mental health can foster resilience and healthy coping mechanisms.

Systematic barriers significantly impact mental health in the Black community. Despite making up approximately 12% of the U.S. population, Blacks are disproportionately represented in high-risk groups. For instance, they constitute roughly 40% of the homeless population, 50% of the prison population, and 45% of children in the foster care system. Exposure to violence, incarceration, and involvement in the foster care system increases the likelihood of developing mental health issues.

“Historical, economic, social, and political factors have systemically exposed the Black community to conditions detrimental to psychological and physical health,” said Houston therapist Nettie Jones. “This has been a persistent issue for generations. Historical traumas from enslavement, oppression, colonialism, racism, and segregation continue to disadvantage the Black community. Emerging research suggests that trauma can cause profound biological changes, which may be genetically encoded and passed down through generations, indicating that intergenerational trauma contributes to ongoing mental health challenges.”

Despite recent progress, significant stigma remains associated with mental health concerns in the Black community. There is often a reluctance to acknowledge psychological difficulties, with many preferring coping strategies such as religious practices, pastoral guidance, and prayer. De-stigmatizing mental health involves helping people understand that mental health is as crucial as physical health.

Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection contribute to the belief that mental health issues are personal weaknesses. This lack of information leads to confusion about when to seek help and where to find it. Improving cultural awareness and responsiveness within the mental health workforce is crucial. Research has shown that a lack of cultural responsiveness, cultural mistrust, and potential negative views from therapists can hinder the provision of mental health services to the Black community. However, increased awareness and funding for culturally responsive mental health treatment are promising developments.

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