Mental Health in the African American Community

Written by Page Jennings

September 18, 2020

Apportis stands by the African American Community in their fight for equality, justice, and peace.

The African American Community is an integral part of the American melting pot. Their culture has made many significant impacts on shaping America, through art, literature and even cuisine. Yet there is a darker side to this story, one of inequality, institutionalized racism, and lack of access to mental health care.
According to Mental Health America, 13.4 percent of the population in the United States identify as Black or African American. Of these, a reported 16% have a mental illness. That equates to nearly 7 million people, more than the population of Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia combined.

Although this number is significant, it may not represent the actual amount of Black Americans who suffer from mental illness, due to the stigma surrounding mental health as well as provider bias. In fact, according to one article, African Americans experience direct trauma, such as police brutality and verbal attacks, yet are less likely than their White counterparts to seek mental health care. Ways we can all help reduce this stigma and provide support for those with mental illnesses include:

  • Bringing awareness to the use of stigmatizing language around mental illness
  • Educating family, friends, and colleagues about the unique challenges of mental illness within the Black community
  • Becoming aware of our own attitudes and beliefs toward the Black community to reduce implicit bias and negative assumptions

In addition, there are many resources both online and in person to help close the gap of inequality surrounding African Americans and mental health care, such as this article which explains how to seek culturally competent care.

It is especially important to practice self care and give attention to our over all well being during these unprecedented times. This article explains the importance of self care and includes tips for those specifically within the African American community. Some of these include making a self care plan and practicing mindfulness.

Other resources to turn to include:

  • Black Emotional and Mental Health (BEAM) which strives to reduce stigma surrounding mental health in the black community through outreach, advocacy and education.
  • Black Mental Health Alliance which provides resources and listings to find a culturally competent therapist, as well as programs and educational tools.
  • The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation which aims to build a better relationship between the African American community and mental health care providers through education and reducing stigma. There is also an opportunity to apply for free virtual therapy and a directory of pre-screened professionals who are culturally competent.
  • Therapy for Black Girls which is an online space dedicated to promoting positive mental health for Black women and girls, as well as connecting them to a therapist.
  • Loveland which provides scholarships and funding especially for Black women and girls to promote their mental well being.
  • Therapy for Black Men which is full of resources especially for Black men, and a database to find a culturally competent therapist.
  • Brother, You’re On My Mind which is a foundation through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services focused on serving African American men. Their website includes resources as well as the opportunity to find local chapters of BYOMM to turn to in times of crisis.

Please know that whatever your culture, beliefs, identity or race, you are not alone. Turn to someone and ask for help. There are many willing to listen.

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