QUICK NOTE: Hey, y’all. I wrote this piece a while ago, when I was trying to get a gig writing about black people and mental health. Sorry, I couldn’t share something more current. Life has been crazy and right now I’m following this Chris Dorner manhunt. Hope you guys like this. There may be a post up tomorrow as well as Thursday. Have a great night!
Newspapers, magazines, websites and other media outlets always emphasize the importance of physical health. These outlets provide information on eating healthily, exercising and practicing good hygiene. Although being physically fit is important, it is equally important to be mentally fit as well. Unfortunately, this concept is being lost or totally ignored, especially within the African American community.
Although most African Americans are able to effectively manage physical and mental stress in their lives, an increasing amount are in need of treatment for mental disorders. According to the Center of Disease Control, African Americans are 30% more likely to suffer from severe psychological stress than Caucasians. Despite this, many African Americans do not seek treatment. Several factors contribute to the lack of treatment of mental health diseases within the African American community. Many African Americans do have access to healthcare treatment programs that could provide them with medication or therapy. Secondly, many African Americans attribute their symptoms of mental disease as a normal part of life. Others know little to nothing about mental disorders and are unable to recognize the signs and symptoms. In addition, many African Americans are unwilling to admit to having mental disorders because they are afraid of being stigmatized or labeled as insane.
In many cases, African Americans who do seek treatment for mental health disorders often receive poor or less than adequate care. It is not because the doctors who are treating them are not qualified. It is because most doctors are unable to provide African Americans with culturally relevant and competent care. About 8 percent of African Americans are employed as psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers within the United States. Due to a lack of cultural understanding, many African Americans with mental disorders are often misdiagnosed. For example, many African Americans are misdiagnosed with mood disorders such as schizophrenia because Africans Americans have a more “aggressive” style when expressing themselves compared to Caucasians or Hispanic Americans.
The best way to improve and promote the mental health of African Americans is to educate and raise awareness of mental disorders in the African American community. Because most African Americans turn to family, religious and community leaders for support, the more who know about the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders, the more understanding and helpful they will be. This would also help alleviate and eliminate the stigmas attached to mental disorders within the African American community. In addition, African Americans need to encourage children and young adults to enter the health care field so there will be more African Americans to help their people overcome these disorders. Finally, African Americans need to have better access to adequate mental health care and to seek treatment if their symptoms become unmanageable.