Mental illness remains hidden shame within Black community

African Americans suffer more from psychological distress

Merdies Hayes Editor In Chief | 5/10/2018, midnight
A couple of years ago, Kanye West's widely-covered nervous breakdown placed a brief spotlight..

A couple of years ago, Kanye West's widely-covered nervous breakdown placed a brief spotlight on mental illness within the African American community. His recent comments regarding slavery notwithstanding, the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica released this month an unsettling report on access to mental health services for African Americans. It appears that Black Californians are more likely to experience mental health problems than other ethnic groups, but are far less likely to seek and receive the care they need to live a fulfilling life.

The study revealed a connection between untreated mental health problems and multiple absences from work, which can take an economic toll on persons and families in the form of lost pay or lost jobs. This dynamic, researchers found, disproportionately affects communities of color. The data also revealed that mental health problems were causing 12-percent of Black Californians to miss four or more work days per year, compared with 6.1 percent for Asians, 7.9 percent for Whites, and 9.4 percent for Latinos.

Blacks, reportedly, are three times as likely as Asians and nearly twice as prone as Whites to suffer from severe psychological distress; African Americans are also more susceptible to bouts of mental illness than Latinos, though only by a small margin.

Black women often forgo treatment

Black women tend to face an even more daunting struggle with mental illness than do Black men. The Rand study found that Black women are more likely than men to go without needed mental health services and, as as result, are more likely to miss multiple days of work, thereby putting them at more risk than any state population of losing their jobs.

The Rand report only touched on the effect mental illness can sometimes have on Black employment. There is so much more to this hidden illness that has traditionally brought shame to individuals and family members who must confront the various circumstances arising from the health malady each day. While African Americans are no different with it comes to the prevalence of adverse mental health conditions, sometimes concerns within the Black community about how to understand and cope with the topic can be drastically different than with other races and ethnic groups.

African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions because of unmet needs and other cultural barriers. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20-percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Common mental health disorders among African Americans range from major depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD particularly among school-age youth) suicide (among Black men 20 to 35 years old), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD common among Black youth residing in gang territories where shooting deaths occur frequently and also related to African Americans more likely to be victims of violent crime).

African Americans—particularly those residing in America's inner cities—are reportedly more likely to experience certain factors that increase the risk for developing a mental health condition. These factors include, but are not limited to, homelessness because these individuals are at a greater risk of developing a mental health condition. Black people comprise up to 40 percent of America's homeless population.