Black. Mental. Health. Matters.
Updated: Nov 20, 2021
[Written in June 2020]
Around the nation, protests have arisen as a result of the brutal and horribly unjustified police killings of unarmed, Black citizens. Police brutality, mass incarceration, and Black LGBTQ+ rights are hot topics today, but one that goes generally undiscussed is Black mental health. In this post, I will be explaining some of the connections between Anti-black discrimination and mental health.
If you learn anything from my posts, it’s that professional diagnoses matter. In honor of recent protests and the BLM Movement, we must discuss how difficult it can be for Black Americans to receive mental health help. This is an issue that goes ignored, and we need to bring this to the forefront of our mental health discussions, as Black individuals are disproportionately denied access to mental health resources.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 70% of Black adults with mental illness can’t receive treatment because of diagnosis issues (or general lack thereof), insurance costs, medical malpractice, and etc.
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, serious mental illness rose among the Black population from 2008 to 2018. Major depression rose over 14% in Black youth aged 12-17, 47% in young adults aged 18-25, and 11% in adults aged 26-49.
According to a 2013 study by Ward et al., the negative stigma surrounding mental illness in Black communities was detrimental in the pursuit of coping treatments. Apprehension about seeking mental help is pervasive as a result of distrust of the health care system, lack of insurance, and the lack of culturally competent care providers, all of which are issues stemming from systemic racism towards Black people.
According to the American Psychiatric Associations, Black Americans are more often diagnosed with schizophrenic behavior than mood disorders compared to their white counterparts. Furthermore, Black Americans are less likely to be offered treatment medications or therapy. The APA study even demonstrated how Black Americans with psychotic disorders are disproportionately jailed compared to White Americans who may be labelled with "needing mental aid."
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 11.5% of Black Americans are uninsured, thus being unable to afford or access mental health resources in the form of therapy or even diagnostic evaluations. In contrast, only 7.5% of White Americans are uninsured. These statistics prevail even after the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
According to Mental Health America (MHA), the majority of Black Americans suffering from bipolar disorder are not only unable to receive treatment, but in reality, many cannot even receive proper diagnoses. These disparities with regards to diagnosis and treatment only continue to exacerbate existing stigmas that undergird Black communities, creating a positive feedback loop.
When Black individuals face added trauma in forms of daily micro-aggressions, generational poverty, police brutality, and neglect in society, this only exacerbates mental illnesses. In fact, comprehensive studies from the American Journal of Public Health and the Synergi Project delineate direct links from institutionalized racism to psychosis and depression.
We can stand with the Black community by donating to organizations, educating ourselves regarding these pertinent issues, and spreading awareness to others in the pursuit of helping all find the resources they need to cope mindfully.
I strongly encourage you to donate to.....
Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA)
Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective
....all of which are incredible organizations dedicated to support the Black community that seeks mental health resources. They are not limited to OCD/TS and are led by Black mental health professionals. The resource disparity plagues Black communities, and it is up to many of us who are in positions of economic/racial privilege to help those find the help they need. The longer mental trauma and illnesses go unchecked, the deeper the effects can last. #BlackMentalHealthMatters #BlackLivesMatter