Mental Health in 2018: If You’re Black, Can You Never Come Back?

Kanye West

According to a study done by the Office of Minority Health through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as adults, Black and African American males are 20 percent more likely to suffer from serious psychological distress than adult White males. It was also found that Black and African American males are more likely than White males to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness. According to the study, “Black/African 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”. The topic of mental health in Black and African American communities has been more publicized in the past few weeks due to speculations about Kanye West’s tweeting and recent interviews. Headlines such as, “Kanye West’s Slavery Comments Show He’s Not Taking His Medication, Says Source: ‘It’s So Sad’” seek to exploit West for clicks, likes, and publicity. Many people have manipulated West’s words after recently admitting that in 2016 he became addicted to opioids after undergoing liposuction. People have been using the word “crazy” to diminish West and others, casting stigma on mental health and writing them off as unreliable or, plainly, mentally ill and unable to receive treatment. Research also indicates that Black and African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles, and that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate among their families and friends.

For most, mental health and physical health are not viewed in the same way and do not carry the same weight. This lack of knowledge and understanding leads many people to believe that a mental health condition is a personal weakness or flaw. For people of color, this issue becomes intensely magnified when compared to the accessibility and resources that White individuals have. Because less than two percent of the American Psychological Association (APA) members are Black or African American, many people worry that mental health care practitioners are not culturally competent enough to treat their specific issues or diagnoses. This is also compounded by the fact that the study found many Black and African American patients have reported experiencing racism and microaggressions from their mental health practitioners (therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc.). Because one in five people are affected by the pervasive nature of mental illness, what are ways to lessen or put an end to the stigmas that surround mental illness? How do you think that these solutions can be facilitated in families, friend groups, and communities of color?

2 thoughts on “Mental Health in 2018: If You’re Black, Can You Never Come Back?”

  1. I think the one of the major reaons that cause this situation is whiteness of western psychology field. Because most of previous psychology researches focused just on white citizens, and the theories researchers found are mostly based on whites’ mental structure.

  2. Thank you for this post. The points that you made towards the end about the APA and mental health practitioners in general really got me thinking. As a White male who has struggled with issues of mental health, I was afforded treatment that black men lack, and this is disturbing. Casting people off as crazy, or seeing mental illness as a character flaw, is problematic. Especially in black males, who as we discussed in class aren’t able to just express their emotions and are held to a tighter chain of toxic masculinity than males of more privileged backgrounds.

    To lessen the stigmas of mental illness, and promote a society in which people can openly and unabashedly discuss such a sensitive topic, we need more articles like this. Also, having celebrities “come out as mentally ill” is not a solution, and should not be forced, but it is definitely helpful for everyday people who suffer from this often invisible illness. I know that I personally have found it comforting to know that I’m not alone.

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