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Taking Care of Black People's Mental Health

In the United States, around 37 million people identify as Black or African American. The Black community has made great contributions to the ongoing fight for social, racial, and economic justice, from trailblazing pioneers like George Washington Carver and Dorothy Height to modern-day heroines like Anita Hill and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Furthermore, because the Black community is situated at the crossroads of racism, classism, and health injustice, their mental health needs are frequently aggravated and largely unmet. Economic insecurity, as well as the experiences that come with it, such as violence and criminal injustice, serve to exacerbate mental health disparities in the Black community.

Research Surrounding the Black Community and Mental Health

According to research, adults in the Black community are 20% more likely to suffer from major mental health issues such Major Depressive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In addition, when compared to White emerging adults and older Black individuals, Black emerging adults (ages 18-25) have higher rates of mental health problems and lower rates of mental health care utilization. Despite efforts to eliminate inequities in race and class in the United States, these depressing figures reveal that inequalities are widening. However, more study is needed to explain these findings and to better understand the variables linked to reduced mental health care consumption in the Black population. Due to historical abuses of Black people in the name of health care, a lack of trust in the medical system, a lack of adequate insurance, culturally responsive mental health providers, financial burden, and a history of discrimination in the mental health system, there is a lack of trust in the medical system. Furthermore, research suggests that dread of repeating similar events is one of the variables that contributes to poor self-esteem.

Systematic Barriers

Systemic impediments clearly have a disproportionate influence on mental health in the Black community. Despite the fact that Black people make up about 12% of the US population, they are overrepresented among high-risk communities (a group that is often impacted by specific negative occurrences). For example, Black people make up about 40% of the homeless, 50% of the prison population, and 45 percent of children in foster care. Violence, jail, and involvement in the foster care system have all been linked to an increased risk of having a mental disorder, according to research. As a result of historical, economic, social, and political influences that systemically expose the Black community to variables known to be harmful to psychological and physical health, the Black community, in particular, is at considerably greater risk of acquiring a mental health issue. Through enslavement, oppression, colonialism, racism, and segregation, the Black community has been and continues to be disadvantaged in terms of mental health. A rising collection of evidence demonstrates that traumatic events can result in significant bodily changes in the individual who experiences them.

The Stigma Associated with Mental Health Concerns

Despite recent progress, mental health issues continue to carry a major stigma. Although there is sometimes resistance to admitting psychological problems in the Black community, effective coping mechanisms such as religious coping and pastoral assistance and prayer are frequently used. Destigmatizing mental health can be accomplished through educating people, particularly in the Black community, on how mental health, like a balanced diet, sleep, and exercise, is an important part of overall well-being. Due to negative preconceptions of instability and rejection attitudes, these concepts often cause people to feel that a mental health illness is a personal weakness. Because there is a scarcity of information regarding mental health issues in the Black community, it is difficult to know when or where to seek treatment. In the health-care and mental-health workforce, there is also a need for more cultural knowledge and response. According to research, the therapist's lack of cultural responsiveness, cultural mistrust, and the therapist's potential negative beliefs linked with stigma all have an impact on the provision of mental health services in the Black community.

Culturally Responsive Mental Health Treatment

One strategy to alleviate the gaps in psychological well-being in the Black community is to provide culturally appropriate mental health therapy. Every element of our lives, including mental health, is influenced by culture, which includes a person's beliefs, customs, values, and language. When meeting with providers, it's critical for customers to ask questions in order to gauge their cultural sensitivity. Most people are afraid or embarrassed to ask these difficult questions, but clinicians expect and embrace them since they help them better understand the patient and what is important to them. Here are three tips clients could do to seek out culturally responsive providers:

  • Ask the provider questions about their treatment approach and if they provide care including ones’ culture.

  • Seek attention from someone who is aware and affirming of your intersecting identities (social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, that are overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage) and your cultural background.

  • Be mindful that some providers do not use methods that involve a cultural treatment framework, so ensure your provider is culturally responsive and respectful of your needs and how to infuse these beliefs into treatment.

A mental health practitioner will play an important part in your therapy, and it's critical to collaborate and communicate well with them. It's critical to understand that efforts toward social justice in the Black community will fall short until mental health inequities are addressed, and that seeking mental health care is a part of overall wellness. Prioritizing mental health is not a sign of weakness, but of power in the Black community, which has a long history of social change.

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