How To Take The First Step In Seeking Mental Health Treatment

Young African American manMental illness affects more than 43 million American adults. But barriers to accessing treatment continue to leave those struggling at risk.

More than 100 million Americans, for example, are reported to live in areas without enough mental health workers to address the needs of their population. Aside from accessibility, common barriers to care also include skepticism, cost and stigma.

While getting adequate mental health care is a challenge for many Americans, it poses unique difficulties for members of the Black community. In addition to issues like cost and stigma, Black Americans also face provider discrimination and inequality of care. With the small number of Black mental health care professionals, many Black Americans know even if they do manage to overcome stigmas surrounding mental illness and identify a need for therapy and seek help, they can end up with a practitioner who is racist, who does not understand their experiences and needs, or is otherwise unable to address their needs.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness posits that these very real barriers can lead many Black people to turn to family, faith and social communities for emotional support more often than mental health care professionals. Unfortunately, though interpersonal relationships are vital sources of support, they can prove inadequate for those struggling with serious mental health concerns.

Black Americans are 20 percent more likely to have mental illness than the general population, with common diagnoses including major depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, suicide and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Psychologists continue to study the immense psychological trauma of racism and to look into the way oppression leads to increased exposure to mental illness risk factors like homelessness and witnessing or experiencing violence.

Though the stigmas, financial burdens and challenges to effective practitioners can seem overwhelming, know that if you are a black American dealing with mental health issues, you are not alone. According to…