Many African-Americans who are still in the care of their parents who suffer with mental health issues have heard something of the following. “That is for them white folks.” In the Black community most mental health issues go undiagnosed due to the heavy stigma they carry. Many people in our community see mental issues as a weakness or thought of as entirely fictitious. The most common mental disorders African-Americans suffer through are Depression, ADHD, and PTSD. In my own experience as I was having a panic attack at fifteen years old my stepfather picked me up by the shoulders and shook me while telling me I was faking.
So what happened to make us believe that mental health is only for ‘white folks’ to be concerned about? Well, for one thing there is the strong black woman/stoic black man narrative that the masses always push which can in turn discourage black people from seeking mental health treatment. There is also data showing that African Americans seek mental health treatment about half as much as caucasians. Does this mean that in turn we are less depressed? No, in fact studies show that African-Americans are 20% more likely to suffer from mental illness than the rest of the world. This is not entirely out of pride however, many people simply cannot afford adequate healthcare when it comes to mental health. Due to this only 25% of Black people ever receive mental health consultation . Another reason why African-Americans may not seek mental health treatment is because there are barely any African-American mental health professionals; they only make up a little over 5% of licensed psychological workers across the national organizations.
It is 2017. Something big needs to change if we are to accept the millions of African-American living with undiagnosed mental illness. Having undiagnosed mental illness can be deadly as the suicide rate for Black boys and girls has increased almost unprecedentedly overtime. In 2012, suicide was the 9th most popular cause of death for prepubescent children and adolescents , significantly higher that 11th for Caucasians. To end the stigma we must unite and talk more about these subjects. Mental health should not be a taboo and is in no way anyones fault. If you think you may be suffering with mental illness remember you are not alone ,and the chemical imbalances in your brain do not define you. If you or anyone you know is feeling down and need to talk please call the national suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-8255. If you are unable to talk on the phone or feel uncomfortable you can access an online suicide prevention chat personalized to you here