Mental illness within the Black/African American community is a very real issue, yet we (the Black community) pay very little attention to our mental health status. Often associated with negative stigma, we often neglect to discuss mental health and depression and sweep the issue under the rug. If we continue down this path, unfortunately we will continue to lose more young and brilliant minds due to suicide, because of our turning of a blind eye to the issue.
The numbers do not lie and there is an increasing amount of research that demonstrates mental health problems and depression are rising issues within the Black community.
Although we only make up 13.2 percent of the population, over 16.2 percent of the Black community has a diagnosable mental illness, that is over 6.8 million Black or African Americans living with a diagnosed mental health illness.
Most of mental illness is often unfortunately attributed to being black in a so-called “post-racial” America. Historically speaking, within the African diaspora we have dealt with a lot of adversity: the trans-Atlantic slave trade, slavery, the Black Codes and Jim Crow. Although it’s been about 150 years since the end of slavery, we have only been “free” in America for about 50 years, since the institution of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act of 1964 and 1965. In spite of our approximate 50 years of freedom, we are still not yet free as we are still dealing with institutional slavery within the American fabric and probably even more so as we progress through the Trump era. Psychologists and neuroscientist acknowledge the historical ramifications of the adversity that we have faced as a people and have determined that although we have survived those times, the trauma still lingers and is encoded in our DNA through inter-generational trauma. Yet we, the Black community, who are 20 percent more likely to suffer from serious psychological distress than whites, have yet to fully acknowledge this issue. We, Black people are more likely than whites to experience feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and worthlessness. Sadly, black teenagers are also more likely to attempt suicide than their white peers (8.3 percent vs. 6.2 percent).
Though our culture is one that is built on strength and resilience, it’s time that we wake up and realize that mental illness is no longer a white issue but has now become a Black issue. One that we must no longer turn a blind eye to but instead deal with head on and learn how to cope with it.
Stay tuned for more info on taking stock of your mental health during the month of August with P.O.C. Health Matters!