Encouraging Mental Wellness In The Black Community

Sep 25, 2023

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness, hopelessness and feeling like everything is an effort. Yet, only one in three Black adults who need mental health care receive it.*

The Anti-Stigma Coalition presented a Facebook Live event—Influential Voices in the Black Community Talk about Mental Health, on Wednesday, September 20 at noon.

Panelists discussed the state of stigma around mental health diagnoses in the Black community and how the topic is covered in the media. Stigma around mental illness is prevalent in the Black community, often preventing people from seeking help.

The panel was moderated by Karl Shallowhorn, Director of Youth Programs, Mental Health Advocates of WNY. Panelists were Kelly Dumas, LCSW, Executive Director, Healing Hub of New York, and Pastor George F. Nicholas, Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church.

“While people are more open to having the discussion about mental health, there are deep historically rooted reasons for mistrust of the system,” Dumas said. “If someone gets to the point of feeling they can benefit from mental health services, if they don’t see service providers that look like them or the diagnostic tools don’t reflect cultural differences, mistrust continues. We still have some work to do.”

Stigma results from negative attitudes about mental health struggles, and how mental illness is portrayed in the media can perpetuation these stereotypes.

“I feel that mental health is being covered more sensitively in the media these days, however it depends on what kind of media you’re speaking about,” Shallowhorn said. “For instance, generally the news media has gotten better in its reporting on mental health, however there are still TV programs and films that stigmatize mental health. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still room for improvement.”

NAMI reports that one study showed that 63% of Black people believe that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. As a result, people may experience shame about having a mental illness and worry that they may be discriminated against due to their condition.

Many in the Black community often seek support from their church, faith community, or family and are hesitant to seek professional help for mental health issues. Socioeconomic factors can also contribute to challenges in obtaining treatment.

Working with our community partners and organization members, the Anti-Stigma Coalition works to eliminate stigma and encourage understanding and acceptance for those living with mental health challenges.

*American Psychiatric Association

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