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Why Blacks Are Less Likely to Seek Mental Health Treatment

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Addressing Mental Health in the Black Community.

Mental Health Treatment is not a sad thing. Mental health in black community is real. Black history and mental health matters. There needs to be mental health awareness in black communities. I once viewed it as a sign of weakness and a lack of belief in God. My view has changed. I no longer have that belief. I have suffered from anxiety, and a lack of stress management, and I battle depression. You are extraordinarily strong if you seek out help to be better. Therapy and mental health treatment are terrific ways to get an understanding and pursue a plan to move forward. African Americans are more likely to experience mental illness than any other group in the U.S., and they’re also less likely to get treatment for it. Why is that? It’s because of the unique experiences of African Americans, from slavery, and prejudice to poverty. To get the help we need, many African Americans have had to veil their struggles with various coping mechanisms and a support network of like-minded individuals who understand what it feels like to be treated unfairly because of your skin color. The pressure to “keep your business inside the family” has created a culture where mental health issues are rarely discussed and always feared as a sign of weakness or insanity. Furthermore, due to systemic racism and income inequality, many African Americans struggle mentally and financially, which makes them less likely to afford mental healthcare coverage or even seek out cheaper alternatives such as therapy. Here’s why so many African Americans aren’t getting the mental health services they need:

Institutionalized Racism Creates a Culture of Silence

Social segregation and the prevalence of racial prejudice have prevented the development of a culture of open dialogue between black and white communities about mental health. The history of black people being misunderstood, misused, and misdiagnosed in predominantly white mental health settings has resulted in many African Americans’ reluctance to seek help. Though attitudes are changing, mental health was ignored as a field of study in the black community until the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. This is partly because, until 1954, black people weren’t allowed to become psychiatrists. It’s also because of the stigma attached to mental illness, especially among black men. Black men are less likely than other racial groups to seek mental health assistance.

Culturally Competant Care

African Americans are disproportionately affected by poverty, and the rising costs of mental health treatment often make it difficult for lower-income individuals to afford it. In fact, nearly 40% of African Americans live in poverty, compared to just 15% of white Americans. The average cost of a single therapy session is $80-$150, and health insurance only covers a fraction of those costs. For example, a Silver-level plan under the Affordable Care Act might only cover around 20% of mental health treatment. If you don’t have insurance and can’t afford to pay for treatment out of pocket, it might be difficult to find low-cost alternatives. Luckily, there are places such as community health centers where you can receive mental health services for free or at an exceptionally low cost.

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Fear of Being Labeled “Crazy”

Many African Americans fear being labeled “crazy” or “mentally ill.” With the rise of social media, these stigmas have become even more widespread, thanks to people sharing their opinions on mental health and illness online. But stereotypes about what mental illness looks like don’t always reflect reality. For example, many people wrongly associate mental illness with violent outbursts. In the black community, there’s a greater fear of being ostracized by friends and family members if they reveal they’re seeking treatment. Many people associate mental illness with a lack of willpower, despite evidence showing that it has biological causes. There’s also a strong stigma around admitting that you need help, which is especially evident in cultures that value self-reliance and personal strength. Many people feel they should be able to handle their mental health issues on their own, without treatment.

Black Culture Is Based on Strength, Not Vulnerability

Strength and resilience are valued in black culture and identity, which makes it difficult for people to open up about their vulnerabilities. There’s also a fear that by admitting you’re struggling with mental illness; you’ll be seen as less capable and strong. Mental health issues are just as real as physical ailments, but many people have trouble accepting this. Mental health issues aren’t always apparent from the outside, which can make it difficult for people to empathize with others. White Americans tend to be more open about their mental health issues and more likely to seek treatment, while black Americans are more likely to keep their struggles a secret and suffer in silence.


There are many reasons why African Americans are less likely to seek mental health treatment. The reality is people suffer from mental health in the black community. Institutionalized racism and prejudice have created a culture of silence around mental illness. Meanwhile, poverty makes mental health treatment out of reach for many African Americans. Strength and resilience are valued in black culture, which makes it difficult for people to open up about their mental health vulnerabilities. Mental health issues are just as real as physical ailments, but many people have trouble accepting this. Be encouraged to seek help. Read black mental health books. Do it for yourself.

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