Mental Health in the Black Community…


Mental Health in the Black Community…

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For many years I have heard people in the Black community pass judgment on others by using terms like, “crazy” or “touched”, to identify those that may suffer from mental illness.  This history of ignorance has created a huge stigma in our community.  The fact is, many Blacks do not believe or acknowledge mental illness as true medical condition.

When it comes to problems? Just pray.  Well that is one way to look at how God works, but another way to look at it is through the Spanish proverb, “Pray to God, but hammer away”. The stigma attached to mental illness in our community is associated with shame and disgrace, hiding that we either don’t believe or acknowledge there is a problem. This shame creates the view that anyone suffering from mental illness is a weak individual, does not have faith in God or is using a diagnosis as an excuse.  With these views placed on individuals who are mentally ill in our community, it causes them to believe they are the problem and have to suffer in silence.  This silence for many of those suffering means not seeking treatment and getting the support needed to improve their life.

If you or anyone you know is suffering in silence there is help.  Contact your local NAMI chapter  and/or department of human services.  Remember the help is out there and you are not alone.


  • African Americans in the United States are less likely to receive diagnoses and treatments for their mental illnesses than Caucasian Americans.


  • Culture biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevent many African Americans from accessing care due to prior experiences with historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment, and a lack of cultural understanding; only 2% of psychiatrists, 2% of psychologists and 4% of social workers in the U.S. are African American.


  • Mental illness is frequently stigmatized and misunderstood in the African American community.


  • Across a recent 15 year span, suicide rates increased 233% among African Americans aged 10 to 14 compared to 120% among Caucasian Americans in the same age group across the same span of time.


  • Somatization – the manifestation of physical illnesses related to mental health – occurs at a rate of 15% among African Americans and only 9% among Caucasian Americans.



  • Children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illnesses. African American children comprise 45% of the public foster care population.


  • Exposure to violence increases the risk of developing a mental illness; over 25% of African American children exposed to violence meet criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder.


The above facts come from the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) website