Despite devastating rates of suicide and illness, many African Americans continue to suffer in silence—refusing the help they need.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Services, Blacks are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress, like depression, than the general population. Yet, a past study published by the American Psychological Association indicates that young African Americans, especially those with higher levels of education, are less likely to seek mental health services than their White counterparts.
So why are we suffering in silence?
The myths and shame surrounding mental health issues can cause confusion and unnecessary pain. I recall a low time in my life where my ex insisted that “talking to someone” about my depression was a “waste of time,” as a counselor, doctor, psychiatrist, whatever, wasn’t really going to “care” about my issues. I “didn’t need help.” I just needed to stop being “weak” and keep it moving. Sadly, this is how many men and women in our community view depression.
In fact, research shows that Blacks often rely on faith, family and community for emotional support rather than seek medical treatment. “You should take your troubles to Jesus, not some stranger.” Sound familiar?
This cultural misunderstanding that a quick pray and a pat on the back is the end all for our mental health woes leads to a severe missing piece to treatment.
2. Lack of African American mental health professionals
“Only 3.7% of members in the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5% of members in the American Psychological Association are Black,” reports NAMI. Naturally, the lack of African American mental health providers (who can relate to our concerns) creates the lack of trust touched on earlier.