We seek out professional help in several areas. If we need to fix a vehicle, we seek assistance of an automobile mechanic. If we want to build a home, we consult architects, contractors, and bankers. If we get sick, we look to medical professionals — except when it comes to our mental health. We either avoid the warning signs —thinking we are too strong and can handle the pressures of life without help or we erect other barriers.
According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. “are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness and feeling like everything is an effort. Black adults living below the poverty line are more than twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those with more financial security.
“Despite the needs, only one in three Black adults with mental illness receive treatment,” According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Mental Health Facts for African Americans guide, they are also:
- Less likely to receive guideline-consistent care
- Less frequently included in research
- More likely to use emergency rooms or primary care (rather than mental health specialists)
In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death among black men ages 15-24 and during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the statistics got worse — and not just for men in the above age group. “From March 2020 to October 2020, mental health–related emergency department visits increased 24 percent for children ages 5 to 11 and 31 percent for those ages 12 to 17 compared with 2019 emergency department visits,” according to CDC data.
While some seek help, the vast majority of blacks with mental health issues either ignore and deny having them and don’t, or can’t, seek help. “Black and African American hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors.”
What is there to be depressed or anxious about? Plenty. “The weight of racism can wear a person down,” Mental Health America stated: “Processing and dealing with layers of individual trauma on top of new mass traumas from COVID-19 (uncertainty, isolation, grief from financial or human losses), police brutality and its fetishization in news media, and divisive political rhetoric adds compounding layers of complexity for individuals to responsibly manage.”
Blacks face, according to MHA, “Historical adversity, which includes slavery, sharecropping, and race-based exclusion from health, educational, social, and economic resources,” and “translates into socioeconomic disparities experienced by Black and African American people today. Socioeconomic status, in turn, is linked to mental health: people who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated, or have substance use problems are at higher risk for poor mental health.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “When a person is experiencing challenges with their mental health, it is essential for them to receive quality care as soon as the symptoms are recognized. It is equally important that the care they receive is provided by culturally competent health care professionals.”
NAMI started a crusade titled, “Cutting Through the Stigma.” See what it’s all about here:
Your primary care physician is a good place to begin your search for a mental health professional. Some people in crisis turn to church leadership or their pastors, but many churches, like Fellowship Bible Baptist, openly encourage its members to seek help from professional providers. Two such providers are:
Tonja Lee, LLC
Counseling & Consulting
Written by: Charles Richardson