By Amandalyn Vanover
April is National Stress Awareness Month and the 16th is Stress Awareness Day. Stress often leads to physical and mental ailments, ranging from everything like ulcers and strokes to major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. African Americans suffer from these disorders and illnesses just like everyone else but at much higher rates. However, they are not likely to go to the doctor for mental ailments, such as depression, extreme sadness, or anxiety, yet they are highly prone to suffer from one or more of these in their lives. The black community is three times more likely to have mental disorders than what they report. Only 1/3 of African Americans who need mental health help receive it, per a 2016 report. While treatment numbers remain low, a much higher 1 in 5 adults and 1 out of 10 children will experience stress leading to mental health problems this year.
Any person can develop mental health problems, however black people experience more severe forms of mental health disorders because of the barriers and unmet needs they meet than any other part of the population. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, black people are 20% more likely to have problems with mental health than the general population does. While these numbers are high, only 13.3% of the U.S. population (2016 Census Bureau) is African American.
Attitude, cultural outlook, lack of access to care, poor understanding of care, and the stigmas associated with therapy, counseling, and other mental health treatment scenarios keep a majority of black people from seeking the mental health diagnosis and treatment they need. Cultural attitudes about getting treatment for mental health problems has long discouraged a population from getting help.
Common mental health problems experienced by black Americans are:
- ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder),
- Major depression,
- PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and
- Suicide (most especially among young black men).
Adversity throughout history, including years of sharecropping, slavery, and race-based exclusion from resources of all sorts. These include social, health, educational, and economic disadvantages that translate into black community disparities which are experienced today. This socioeconomic status is associated with the rising numbers across mental health regarding people who are homeless, are impoverished, have substance abuse problems, and are incarcerated.
On top of the prominent stigma seen among the black race, racism and discrimination touch most in the African American community too These experiences lead to negative biases resulting in even more stress; driving up the number of anxiety and depression cases.
Even though depression and anxiety rates are rising, the insufficient access to help and resources for the black community is finally being addressed, so there is real hope. There are local and national resources available for you, your family and friends to go to for help. While some of the black mental health disorder resources are celebrity endorsed and led, private organizations run others, and the government offers their own help too.
Black Celebrity Endorsed Mental Health Resources
Taraji P. Henson started The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her late father to end the stigma surrounding mental health. In a memoir Henson wrote in 2016, Around the Way Girl, she detailed how her father fought in Vietnam, only to return home with little to no emotional or physical support.
“I stand now in his absence, committed to offering support to African Americans who face trauma daily, simply because they are black,” she explained in an interview with the Source.
Taraji’s Boutique of Hope proceeds will go to help a great number of mental health resources, including social workers, therapists, and counselors to black children and city schools, plus giving scholarships to African American students majoring in mental health.
Taraji is not the only celebrity to denounce the stigma about mental health help.
In a conversation with CNN, Jay-Z and Van Jones spoke about it and how it affects the community.
“Mental health, trauma, PTSD is so rampant in our community,” Jones said.
According to Self Magazine, Jay-Z said that the stigma surrounding black mental health care is ridiculousness, especially when you think about it that you are just talking to someone about your problems.
Jay-Z went on to say that our children should have access to mental health education and care in schools to deal with social anxiety and other things affecting them.
Six other black celebs who suffer from mental health conditions, but are thriving share their stories on Face2Face Africa. I encourage you to read the article before the day is over.
Normalizing the Mental Health Conversation
Thrive Global published a story about normalizing mental health care in the black community in July 2018 that explored one woman’s journey from mental illness to mental wellness. She ends the article talking about how it is critical to coordinate efforts across healthcare systems, make mental healthcare affordable and accessible for black Americans, and how important activism and advocacy is in regards to policy.
In order to make it acceptable for blacks to talk about mental health problems, there needs to be ongoing, consistent conversations across all sectors of places of worship, school settings, places of work, and the media.
Children aren’t getting the help they need at school, as Jay-Z pointed out. After school, they absorb themselves in video games, YouTube, music platforms, or movies to get away from life and their problems. One of these movies is Wakanda; a movie that took the world by storm – finally delivering a long-awaited black superhero to American moviegoers.
Unfortunately, the real world is not like Wakanda. While the black community in the movie is untouched by racism, discrimination, stigma, chronic illness, and poverty – the American black community is not so lucky. This includes our local Richmond area.
Blacks are suffering from unsurmounted levels of violence and mass callousness from various groups and there is no Black Panther or other super-hero that’s going to swoop in to save the day. And all the people suffering from violence, callousness, and abuse are more likely to develop mental health problems.
How do you know? Here’s some tests you can take.
The Mental Health Tests App
The highly rated Mental Health Tests App by Mind Diagnostics gives you a wide spectrum of tests and links you to licensed professionals to help you follow up to these tests for formal evaluation and diagnosis, plus the app will help you track symptoms and treatments. It is free!
|? Depression Test||? Postpartum Depression Test||? Bipolar Disorder Test|
|? Anxiety Test||? Video Game Addiction Test||? Social Anxiety Disorder Test|
|? Adult ADHD Test||? Internet Addiction Test||? Hoarding Disorder Test|
|? PTSD Test||? Toxic Workplace Test||? Psychosis Test|
|? Alcohol/Substance Abuse and Addiction Test||? Panic Disorder Test||? Borderline Personality Disorder Test|
|? Eating Disorder Test||? Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder Test||? Dissociative Identity Disorder Test|
|? Gambling Addiction Test||? Female Aggression Test||? Schizophrenia Test|
|? Mania Test||? Male Aggression Test|
|? Narcissism Test|
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.minddiagnostics – Google Play for Android
So, how does the conversation start and at where should it take place? When will it become normal? Will the stigma ever disappear? There is huge hope that enough awareness, conversations, and tools to help the black community deal with stress and mental illness will in time squash the common myths and stigmas that have existed in black minds for decades.
Stay tuned to our next publication for Part 2: A Stress & Mental Health Companion Guide for the Black Community