Within the past two to five years, Whites have received twice the amount of mental health treatment as African-Americans and more than double the rate in prescription medication for mental health issues. Though a strong stigma still exists in the African-American community to discuss and treat mental illness, in the past decade growing numbers are reaching out. A recent article goes in-depth to explain a few of the reasons behind African-American’s hesitancy to seek medial attention including self-reliance, distrust and religion.
“We as a culture have not overcome post-slavery,” said a 28-year-old African American woman in the District who sees a therapist but did not want her name used. “I think that in the Black community we have to be strong and we cannot be perceived as weak.”
Damian Waters, a marriage and family therapist whose clients are mostly African-American, sites shame and embarrassment as factors. He added that events like the Tuskegee experiment and documented distrust in the health profession especially towards those of a different race play a role. Meanwhile, religion padded by a sense that prayer and faith will suffice has deepened the distrust in mental health services.
Fortunately, as more African-Americans join the field as medical providers, awareness and education levels increase, and churches are now teaming up with health organizations to provide better counseling, the stigma has decreased. Not to mention, noted figures like Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant are gaining the attention of younger crowds through their open discussions.
“The more educated you are and the more you understand your disorder, the more you’re likely to get it treated,” said Donna Holland Barnes, director of the Suicide Prevention Action Group at Howard University. “The more educated you are, the more you understand this is a normal part of life.”
Other factors included age, gender and finances. Read more on the Washington Post.
BMWK– Do you see African-Americans continuing to gain trust in medical providers? How can we help to decrease the idea that getting help is taboo?
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