Mental health in African American community is often overlooked and contributes to a large percentage of Suicide in adolescent Black children and adults ranging from 24-50. Families in the Black community find it hard to believe that mental health is a large portion of the dysfunction in families and fail to take into consideration detrimental mental health is to the community. Failure to address mental health within the families can cause individuals to disconnect and will continue to be the basis of generational trauma. Discrimination, Low socioeconomic Communities, and assault are some of the many factors that subsequently play a large role to what contributes to Mental Health issues that occur in most Black families. Black families have yet to understand the importance of mental health and the negative impact it has had on the generations of Blacks well after slavery leading into the civil rights movement.
When faced with issues that surround the topic of Mental Health most African American families turn to religion to help cure certain mental health issues, failing to realize that religion cannot be the only options to help individuals get through mental illnesses. It is evident that over a period time since the beginning of slavery, African Americans were actively oppressed and discriminated against, which affected the way mental illnesses in members of this group were viewed, diagnosed, and treated causing many in the community to abandon the need for mental health advocates and therapy. Issues that were carried on well thought slavery and the civil rights movement continues to reflect the cause of why so many African Americans suffer from mental illnesses in silence.
Through the progression of slavery African Americans were deemed more “the psychological disorder drapetomania. This disorder, which affected only slaves, was defined as “the disease causing Negroes to run away” from their owners” (Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health, 2013. 3p.) Drapetomania is one of the earliest forms of mental health issues that was addressed during slavery if slaves were expected of Drapetomania they were subjected to inhuman treatment which was used as an early form of intervention. Rebellious acts during slavery were often seen as a form of mental illness, slave owners expected slaves to abide and respect their masters and attempting to rebel was deemed as a form mental illness. In an effort to minimize mental illness and rebellion amongst slaves, Slave owners inflict violence and would force the practice of Christianity through other slaves. African Americans across the nation are 20 percent more likely to experience some sort of psychological distress over white Americans.
The need to educated the African American population on the importance of Mental increases ,and how to detect when a loved one seems to be a victim of a form of a mental health illness. While mental health amongst African Americans is understudied it is often neglected due to the majority of the population residing in lower socioeconomic communities where healthcare is rarely used. Black families who forgo material hardship and poorer self-rated physical health had higher levels of depressive symptoms and psychological distress compared to counterparts with less hardship (Chatters et al., 20188). African American males who age ranges from ages 12 to 30 are subject to more violence and contributes to post traumatic stress disorder amongst Black Americans, this is increasing while white counterparts or excluded from such brutality and are rarely faced with social hardships. Post-traumatic stress disorder has varied in the years since the end of slavery and can be correlated to violence and discrimination, Post-traumatic stress disorder is recorded to be higher in Veterans and African Americans.
Racism and the violence it brings is a large contributor to PTSD amongst African Americans and is rarely seen amongst whites and Hispanics. According to the Diagnostics Statistical Manual (DSM IV) Racism is now a now categorized as a trauma and necessary steps are being made to ensure those who are affected by racial trauma have the ability to use resources to get help with their PTSD. It is harder for Black Americans to talk openly with white therapist about the trauma and hardships of racism without feeling judged or misunderstood. Out of fear of not being understood by clinicians this creates a cycle of African Americans containing their feelings causing other psychological issues to manifest. Microaggressions are s a common issue with African Americans and is a form of Racism that causes most Black Americans feel less than and threatened in social settings . In order for clinicians to be aware of the issues that pertain to African Americans they must be willing to research the power of racism and see the noticeable effects that it has and is continuing to have on the Black community.
Black families have endured racism and acts of violence well into the Jim Crow era which reflects in the communities of Black communities. While not all African Americans are not suffering from poverty they are more likely to live in these areas where poverty is rising, these can correlate to why depression and other psychological problems are increasing in the black community. African Americans residents are more likely to experience circumstances associated with depression and psychological distress, including higher poverty rates, lower educational attainment, and poorer health, compared to non-Hispanic White and urban peers (Kusmin, 2015, McCartney et al., 2013, Rastogi et al., 2011). African American families have limited resources, health care, mental health clinics and other helpful agencies are rarely readily available in the neighborhoods where the population is majority African American.
The African American population is less likely to use mental health services, this number continues to increases as the challenges of being Black in America also increases. First generation college graduates are also at higher risk of depression and experiencing suicidal characteristic unlike white college graduate students (Williams, Cabrera-Nguyen 2016), trouble finding jobs that relate to their majors first generation college students are subjected to suffer from moderate to mild depression. If black students are better prepared after college it could help minimize the amount of stress and depression that they are face with after graduation. Black students should be informed of the hardships that they will be faced with as a minority heading into the professional workplace and understand that it will be harder for them to succeed and could begin to raise awareness as it relates to post graduation depression for black students. Black first generation students are faced with the pressure of success as well dealing with the fear of failing. The begins to create stress and can cause first generation students to feel that they are alone and can cause them to all into deep depression.
Older Black men experience more health and mental health related issues, they make up over 10 percent of the united population of Americans who have other health related issues. As stated Black men are subjected to more violence, Black older men are recorded to have a higher rate of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Poor quality of life are some of the many factors that are included as to why so many Older Black men suffer from more Mental Health issues than older White males. Black men receive little to no support for mental health disparities, if they receive any at all it through spousal support rather than professional support services which increases the chance of developing chronic mental health issues. Unlike White Americans who have the financial stability to take time off, Black men do not possess this ability and causes them suppress their issues only creating more problems. Starting early black males are expected to suppress their issues out of feeling weak, this has carried over through generations of the Black community and continues to infiltrate through African American families.
Black women of all ages are less likely to commit suicide but are believed to suffer from various mental health issues such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and depression. Black women continue to face the stigma of being over sexualized, strong, and given a negative image through social media. Black Women who lack a support system are more likely to considered suicide other than White women who may have a social support system and better relationships within their family. Black women are more likely to become single parents and are therefore forced to take the position of both parental roles unlike most white women in America. Without the support of a male presence Black women are more subjected to stress, causing them to burnout and experiences other life threatening mental health issues that are related to stress. The stigma that all Black women are strong has kept black women from feeling that they need help of any sort of help, these types of thoughts and behaviors is what continues to keep the Black community from taking mental health serious.
Black women face sexual abuse, microaggressions, and racism which makes it hard for Black women to be vulnerable. Many black women are forced to remain silent on the issues that they’ve had to face from early childhood and as they emerging into adulthood. Both young and older woman suffer from depression which stems from the burden of keeping their problems inside. Failing to speak with clinicians about the importance of mental health, learning about the negative effects of possible psychological issues on continues to add to the already evident issues that are within the person. Both Black men and women fail to educate themselves on what mental health is and how important it is to stay aware of mental health and how it can affect the entire Black communities. Unlike men Black women who are suffering from mental health issues are noted to experience physical body pain, different from Black men they are more subjected to physical pain in correlation of suffering from an undetected mental health issue.
Children within the Black community suffer from high levels of depression especially those children who live in poverty areas. Black children do not have the same resources as those children of white parents, which makes it harder for them to even be screened for potential mental health issues. Because black adults within the Black community don’t take mental health serious it has a negative impact on the children who could be suffering from a form of Psychological disorder from birth. Black children have a harder time opening up about depression with black parents out of being dismissed, this is causing for depression amongst black children to rise as well as suicide. Black parents should be educated on the many mental illness that could affect their children and understand that their children are not excluded from these types of issues that they define as only white issues. This behavior continues to contribute to the rising number of suicide amongst youth and adolescent children within the black community. Mental health issues are more correlated to black children who are faced with abuse, lower socio economic environments.
African Americans regardless of socioeconomic level rarely take into consideration the importance of mental health and it can affect them personally. Through the advancement of technology and the growing number of advocates for Mental Health it is easier for Black Americans to get screened for any mental Health issues. Mental health is important in the black community because it continues to a topic that fails to receive the same discussion as other health issues. African Americans do not receive the same benefits as other races and fail to have their needs met. Most African Americans categories mental health issues as personal issues that they need to work out within themselves or with the help of religion.
Because Black families are not well educated on mental health it is hard for them to detect the signs of a metal health issues until it is too late. Unfortunately African American believe that either the help of religious practices it can rid individuals of their mental health issues. This can cause those who are suffering from mental illness to disconnect and could perhaps worsen their symptoms. While religion could be one of the many resources used it should not be the only form of rehabilitation used for those suffering from mental health issues. While it may be hard for Black families to trust outside resources if educated they can begin to learn the importance of receiving professional help. Religion should only be used as a form of strong faith and should never be used as the primary source of helping some get through a metal health illness.
As a social worker it is very important to continue to educate the Black community on the importance of mental health and to spread awareness. The black community contuses to be discriminated in the healthcare field which has agentive impact on how often Black American consider getting screened for mental health issues. In order to successfully be social worker it is my duty to make sure that African American understand the importance of what keeping your head clear really means. Having the ability to spread awareness in the Black community could spread the message of mental health. I want to spread awareness of how the effects of mental health has on the black community and its development. I want to educated and help those who are suffering from mental illness, help them to understand that they are not alone and to let them know that they resources that are available to them.
When Black Americans are considering care they should focus on clinicians who are culturally competent and are familiar with the issues that Black Americans face and how to know the differences between mental health issues and rough life patches. When considering a health care provider African Americans should be aware of the population the clinician primarily works with and if they have a clear understanding about how Black Americans feel about mental health and how to work with Black Americans who may be apprehensive about mental health. If taking the correct steps more African Americans could being to teach and spread awareness to others in the community in hopes of getting all African Americans more comfortable with speaking out about mental health, and to tell their stories about how they were able to receive help and to educate on the many resources that are available.
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