The Stigma of Mental Health in the African American Community ~ Leticia Reed, LCSW

The Problem

According to statistics more than 19 million are diagnosed with some form of depressive disorder and the numbers are continuing to grow. African Americans contribute to only 13% of the nation’s population and are over represented in most statistics in regard to most societal ills. Incarceration, HIV/AIDS, infant mortality, mortality rates for heart disease and the mortality rates breast cancer for African American women as well as Mental illness, are societal ills that are affecting the community. Due to the stigma surrounding around Mental Health, African Americans are most often left either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, therefore not receiving adequate care needed to treat their presenting problems. As a result, most in this category may oftentimes endure chronic homelessness, substance abuse issues and a cycle of incarceration due to their mental health issues, becoming increasingly worst in some cases and posing a significant safety risk to self and others. Moreover, mental health related issues are masked by physical health issues such as: diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, stoke and obesity from depression related overeating which African Americans continue to be plagued with in very high numbers. However, many African Americans, like the rest of the population, most times, rather treat their physiological issues due to society’s acceptance of physical health versus mental health issues, which we have all continually witnessed the tragic ramification of mass shootings due to unaddressed mental health issues.

This continues to lead to circular and unresolved discussions about gun laws with the subject of mental health being swept under the rug in the end. Lack of attention to any issue will gives birth to growing misconceptions and myths which we have seen.

Historical Background of Current Stigma of Mental Health in African American Community

Issues contributing to the current myths and misconceptions deter many African Americans from seeking mental health treatment include, but at not limited to the following:

A) Distrust towards the medical system due to a historical deception of bureaucracy systems

ie. Tuskegee Experiment

B) Racial biases by medical professionals servicing African Americans

C) Lack of insurance and monetary resources to access and receive optimal care

D) Religious Faith beliefs

E) Fear of being labeled as “crazy” by loved ones.

How Myth are Perpetuated

In my years of practice, I’ve often had clients report that they were attending sessions with me in secrecy due to fearing being ostracized by their loved ones Continue reading “The Stigma of Mental Health in the African American Community ~ Leticia Reed, LCSW”

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Are we ignoring mental illness? 

Mental illness is an equal-opportunity illness.  Every one of us is impacted by mental illness.  One in five adults are dealing with this illness, and many are not seeking help because the stigma prevents that.~ Margaret Larson

Depression.  Anxiety.  ADHD.  BiPolar.  These are some common words were use or hear almost daily in our conversations, on the news, or on our favorite television shows.

We are hearing more about the importance of mental wellness, and self-care.

We see the green awareness ribbons and read the stories about our veterans’ suicide and PTSD rates.

We are hearing and seeing more and more about mental illness, mental health, and mental wellness more than ever before, but what are we doing with this information?  According to a report by Mental Health America (MHA), a non profit organization, Americans are not getting the treatment they need.  Many people may immediately say that there is a lack of access to the help they need, however the report’s findings disagree with that.  The report entitled “The State of Mental Health in America” gives facts, statistics and other data on mental health from across the United States.  The report also list the best and the worst states for mental health care, and Connecticut is at the top and Nevada is at the bottom.  Even though Vermont is the 3rd best state, 43% of adults that have been diagnosed with a mental illness did not receive treatment.  This number is just under the national average because 56%
of Americans with a mental illness did not receive treatment despite there being more access to insurance and access to treatment. Continue reading “Are we ignoring mental illness? “