Black Community Struggles to Trust Providers for Mental Health Needs

As the concept of self-care is surging in popularity within our society and the Black community, doctors say there still remains a rise in mental health issues worldwide that has yet to be adequately addressed, in particular, amongst Black people.

In an effort to shed light on the challenges, August is recognized as Global Black Mental Health Awareness Month. According to research from the American Psychiatric Association, Black people are disproportionately affected by mental health issues. In facts an estimated 20 percent of people living with mental illness are Black —a number that researchers say is likely being underreported. spoke with Dr. Nicole Washington who is a member of Black Psychiatrists of America who says the time is now for the Black community to address mental health.

“We have to talk more and build narratives around our mental health struggles. It is time to talk about this in a matter of fact way and take some of the stigma and taboo out of these struggles. We hide these things because we want to appear strong but there is strength in vulnerability,” she explained.

As Blacks are being urged to seek help for any and all mental heath, there is yet another obstacle impacting Blacks that centers around the healthcare providers. According to research conducted by JAMA Network, physicians who are responsible for treating Black people often lack the cultural competency and compassion to properly diagnose Black people dealing with mental health issues. In fact, only 2 percent of the nearly 40,000 psychiatrists in the United States are Black. The racial disparities in healthcare often means Black people seeking treatment for mental health experience lower healthcare quality and negative outcomes.

“There aren’t enough people of color to provide services and frankly a lot of Black people would be more comfortable talking to someone who looks like them. The system has done a lot to lose the trust of Black people in this country,” Dr. Washington said.

Researchers also point out that various mental heath struggles facing Black people worldwide can be distinctively different from other races. Researchers agree that because of the history of enslavement and discrimination in our society it is necessary to consider historical context to better understand the mental health of Black people.

According to the National Institutes of Health, although Blacks have similar or lower rates of common mental disorders than whites, mental disorders are more severe, persistent, and disabling among Black people. In addition, Black people are also less likely to utilize psychiatric services, and if they receive care, it is usually of lower quality than care provided to whites.

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