Mental Health and the Black Community
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States and it’s observed as a federal holiday on June 19th. Although the upcoming holiday marks the emancipation of the involuntary institution, racial disparities, injustices, and systemic racism still exist. Along with these obstacles come mental health issues.
Progress takes time—a collective effort, a paradigm shift. Humanity comes with its set of struggles and rewards by itself, but the challenges brought on by cultural and racial distinctions pose a unique and supplementary struggle reserved for the unprivileged minority. Perhaps this is what plays a significant role in mental health issues amongst many in the Black community.
Black adults in the United States are more likely than their white counterparts to report ongoing symptoms of emotional distress. This includes hopelessness, sadness, and feeling like everything is an effort, according to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.
“Everything is an effort” is not an entitlement complaint or a sign of apathy. Rather, in this instance, it alludes to the added emotional or physical energy exerted by a Black individual that a white individual may not experience to carry out the same task.
For example, imagine walking into an office for a job interview. A Black individual enters the environment where many of the individuals in the office are white, including the individual interviewing them.
A person of color may overthink how they are potentially being perceived by individuals who belong to a race that historically already has preconceptions about who they are. The office staff is not necessarily pre-judging the person of color, but the POC behaves the way they do based upon their past experience. A white candidate under the same circumstances would not exert the same energy when it comes to race, as their thoughts of racial inequality tend to not be their common personal experience.
African American mental health statistics:
- Mental health status is impacted by poverty. Black Americans living below poverty compared to Black Americans living more than twice above the poverty level, are two times as likely to report serious psychological distress.
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death amongst Black Americans between the ages of 15-24 in 2019.
- In 2019, Black females in high school were 60% more likely to attempt suicide in comparison to white females within the same educational group.
- 3.4% of Black Americans have an illicit substance use disorder in comparison to 3% of the general American population.
- 6.9% of Black Americans have a substance use disorder, slightly lower in comparison to the 7.4% of the general American population.
If you’re struggling with mental health conditions, as well as alcohol or substance misuse, there are resources for you. American Addiction Centers (AAC) is a nationwide leader in addiction treatment and is an inclusive provider of care for all under licensed medical professionals. We provide both inpatient and outpatient treatment options. You’re not alone. Please reach out to get the help that you need.
Potential Causes of Mental Health Conditions in Black Americans
Ideally, living in the United States of America provides the path to whatever dream your mind can conceive and your efforts can create. That’s why many are drawn to this country: that coveted American dream. To be willing to work tirelessly for a life that you perceive as the one you want to experience. However, we do have our challenges to contend with. Racism and mental health conditions are two of them.
Inequity, racism, and discrimination can greatly impact an individual’s mental health. Being perceived or treated as “less than” due to the pigment in one’s skin can be stressful and even traumatic in some instances.
According to a study published by the American Psychological Association, perceived racism may cause mental health symptoms. It could contribute to physical health inequities between Black Americans and other communities in the U.S.
The psychological responses to racism resemble responses to trauma, “which is psychological distress expressed as physical pain; interpersonal sensitivity; and anxiety.”
So, what are the solutions?
We can’t force groups of people to like each other. We can’t force people to be kind. Likewise, we can’t force our personal beliefs on others. But we can at least all agree that what every last person wants is the ability to feel safe, to feel loved and valued, to have food, clean drinking water, clothing, and shelter, and the right to pursue their own path to happiness as long as it doesn’t infringe on the physical livelihood and ability for others to thrive in their own right.
If we can at least agree on that, we have common ground. And with this, we can start a dialogue, which will inevitably lead to action, and then a paradigm shift. Juneteenth is just one day out of the year to honor and celebrate freedom for Black Americans. But let’s celebrate everyone, every day.
If you find yourself battling substance misuse and a co-occurring mental health condition such depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder, you’re not alone. AAC provides treatment with a compassionate medical staff to help individuals. If you’re currently struggling, please reach out to get the help you need today.