Addressing the Mental Health Stigma in the African-American Community

It is not my intention to make our need to embrace better mental health a racial issue. All Races experience concerns centered around their ability to deal with mental health. However, there has long been a stigma assumed by African-Americans and their willingness to deal with mental health issues.

Here are the facts:

* According to the 2014 US census report, 13.2%of Americans identify as Black or African-American. That’s about 45.7 million people.

* Historical adversity, I.e., Slavery, sharecropping, exclusion from health benefits, lack of social and economic resources, incarceration, etc.

* Negative attitudes towards blackness, stereotypes, mistrust of authority are all significant components of why mental health problems exist in the Black Community.


Prayer As a Cure for Mental Health Disease:

I’m not at all blaming the Black church for the mental ailments that exist amongst African-Americans. But in my honest opinion, the church does play a role in its provisioner’s ability to act upon their mental health needs. It’s time we move away from things can all go away with prayer. If it’s an issue that needs to be diagnosed and addressed, we owe it to ourselves and our families to address these needs.

There’s at least one:

We all have that family member that at one time or another we’ve said,” ________ is crazy as hell.” We’ve mentioned this in a joking and loving way. Rarely have we taken it one step further to say, some mental health needs should be addressed with so and so. It’s a reluctance that exists for us to have serious conversations with our loved ones. I know this is where I fall short. I know in order to help others; I must first address my own inadequacies.

I also have fell victim to the mental health talk. My hotbloodedness, and quick temper, as well as the predisposition of being a Black man in America, are all triggers. Throw in a high-stress job, with other people’s lives that you have to be responsible for, and it would behoove you to partake in some self-care, including mental health check-ups.

Sometimes when you self-identify with a problem, it’s easier to convey that thought to others. Given the dangers that exist with not addressing mental health in our communities, its time we knock down those barriers and help the ones close to us address their needs.


If you have a family member or a loved one that is in need of mental health help, here are some steps you can take to help:

1) Listen without judgment.

2) Create a safe space where you are a trusted person in their lives.

3) When they have questions about mental health needs, volunteer to be there every step of the way. No one should have to go through addressing these needs alone.

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