#mygirlsquad / Culture

Black Communities and Mental Health

Historically, communities of color experience unique and considerable challenges in accessing mental health services.

However we always seem to dust it under the carpet. Here are some shocking facts that we need to realize.

According to the US HHS Office of Minority Health:

  • Adult Black Americans are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult whites.
  • Adult Black Americans living below poverty are three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty.
  • Adult Black Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites.
  • And while Black Americans are less likely than white people to die from suicide as teenagers, Black Americans teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers (8.3 percent v. 6.2 percent).

Black Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of serious violent crime than are non-Hispanic whites, making them more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Black Americans are also twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be diagnosed with schizophrenia.

2016 Minority MH Prevalance Infographics-Black AA.png

July was Psychosocial Disability Awareness Month in South Africa. Winnie de Roover, from the Mental Health Information Centre at the University of Stellenbosch, said between one and three percent of South Africans suffered from a mental health problem, which required them to be admitted to hospital.

She said: “Nearly 20 percent of high school students a year think about fatally harming themselves. Roughly 25 percent of all general practitioners’ patients are ill due to psychiatric rather than medical conditions.”

She added: “Mental disorders have a significant negative social and economic impact on South African society. The costs of alcohol abuse through health and medical expenses, lost productivity, violence and crime, are more than R5-billion each year.”

With all of this information there are still studies that confirm that it is taboo to be black and have a mental issue.

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According to a study conducted by Ward, Wiltshire, Detry, and Brown in 2013:

  • Black Americans hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors. Generally speaking, the participants in this study were not very open to acknowledging psychological problems, but they were somewhat open to seek mental health services.
  • Thirty percent of participants reported having a mental illness or receiving treatment for a mental illness
  • Black Americans men are particularly concerned about stigma.

Further to this one study cited by the American Psychiatry Association said that 85% of African-Americans would describe themselves as “fairly religious” or “religious,” and that their most common way to handle stress is through prayer. For people who come from religious backgrounds, especially those without adequate access to adequate medical care, prayer may be a primary method of dealing with mental illness as well.

Mental illness is not a one-size-fits-all. One’s race, tribe, values, and upbringing will all play a major role in honing the mold for mental illness. The stigma of going for help in the black community, coupled with severe cuts in funding for mental health services, means that many people with a mental illness end up in the emergency room, or in jail or homeless.

If you or a loved one needs help don’t hesitate to check out the following sites:

United States:




South Africa:




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