It’s Black History Month, and that means it’s the perfect time to discuss mental health matters in our community. Many of us know that the Black Community faces many barriers regarding diagnoses and receiving adequate care. This is especially true for Black men, a demographic often lacking the space and resources required to help them overcome these hidden traumas.
However, if the community ever hopes to flourish and reach its full potential, we must stop overlooking these severe issues plaguing our society. With that in mind, here is a closer look at the mental health issues affecting our men in the Black community and some ideas on how to fix them.
The various educational and financial issues in the Black community are no secret. However, many are unaware of the role these issues play in mental health. For instance, Black adults below the poverty line are twice as likely to experience severe emotional distress as those not experiencing such problems.
Moreover, Black men are among the least likely demographics to receive adequate mental health care. According to the APA, “only 26.4% of Black and Hispanic men ages 18 to 44 who experienced daily feelings of anxiety or depression were likely to have used mental health services, compared with 45.4% of non-Hispanic White men with the same feelings.” This means despite being disproportionately affected by these issues, Black men are likely never to be treated for them. This factor alone may be one of the root causes of many pressing issues facing Black men.
Mental Health Stigmas
Another major issue preventing Black men from getting much-needed mental healthcare is the inherent anti-mental health stigmas in the Black community.
Distrust of the Medical Community at Large
For instance, distrust of the medical community is an issue that is very valid within the Black community. To this very day, the Black community is victimized by medical racism in many ways.
Generally speaking, Black people are more likely to be ignored, injured, or even die in various healthcare settings. This is one primary reason many Black men are reluctant to use conventional medicine to treat them. In addition, black people are more likely to be misdiagnosed than white patients, which may further fuel the distrust of mental health services.
Mental Health as a Weakness
Moreover, mental health issues are stigmatized; the Black community seems to see the need for such services as weak or even feminine. This prevents many men from boldly seeking the mental health help they need.
On the whole, the Black community is deeply religious. This makes them more likely to turn to religion for counsel than healthcare professionals. In other words, Black men are more likely to use the power of prayer or to seek advice and guidance from religious leaders than to turn to the mental health sector.
If we ever hope to address and dismantle the barriers preventing Black men from receiving mental health care, we need to do the following:
- Creating More Black Mental Health Experts: Since other demographics largely dominate the mental health sector, this makes it even less likely for them to seek these services.
- More Public Outreach: If Black men won’t come to mental healthcare, we need to bring mental healthcare to them.
- Redefining Masculinity: As a community, we must evolve to a point where mental health care is encouraged for everyone. We need to stop equating mental health issues with weakness altogether.
Overall, fixing the mental health issues within the Black community is an inside job. By creating more Black mental health experts, doing much public outreach, and redefining masculinity to include prioritization of mental health, we can help treat traumatized men while also learning to raise boys to address these issues in real-time, preventing long-term consequences.