Black History Month: Black Health and Wellness
February is Black History Month
There is no doubt that mental illness affects all genders and communities. However, there are some communities that face greater challenges to receive the care they need for mental illness and other medical needs.
Black History Month celebrates the great achievements and acknowledges the struggles for equality of African Americans in the United States. The theme for 2022 is “Black Health and Wellness.” The Association for the Study of African American Life and History chose this theme to acknowledge “the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birthworkers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora.”
Improving the health of the African American community not only includes physical health but understanding how cultural values and historical bias negatively affects mental health care for the community. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), “Experiences of mental illness vary across cultures and there is a need for improved cultural awareness and corresponding competence in the health care and mental health workforce.”
Barriers to Mental Health Care
Although great strides have been made in the United States to address the needs of the community, barriers still exist that prevent equal access to physical and mental health care. Here are some of the barriers that may prevent someone in the community from receiving the care they need for mental illness:
- Socioeconomic: Many African American adults do not have access to health insurance, which also creates barriers for their children and teens from receiving care.
- Stigma against Mental Illness: Lack of education and awareness about mental illness may cause many to not seek professional care. Cultural values that stigmatize mental illness may also contribute to declining to seek care for oneself or one’s children.
- Negative Health Care: African Americans in need of mental health care may have a negative experience when seeking care. This can include health professionals dismissing symptoms, misdiagnoses, and experiencing prejudice in the health care system. Negative experiences discourage adults and teens from seeking the care they need and harbors distrust in medical professionals, which increases the likelihood they will not seek additional care for their mental illness.
How can we improve?
The numerous barriers to mental health care for the African American community is a complex and nuanced problem, but by bringing light to these issues we can take the necessary steps to dismantle those barriers.
- Education: Teach your child or teen to seek out trusted health care professionals. Research trusted medical professionals together.
- Remove the Stigma: Teach your child or teen that it is ok to reach out for help. Work together against cultural stigma to seek appropriate help.
- Community: Work together as a community to decrease the stigma against mental health.
- Training: If you are a medical professional complete sensitivity training to better understand the mental health issues and cultural values of the African American community.
- Establish Trust: Do not be discouraged by a negative experience with a mental health professional. Continue to seek the ideal professional that will help your family get the help they need.
Only together can we improve these barriers to mental care not only for the African American community, but for all. Taking these lessons above and beyond Black History Month will lead to a greater understanding of how we can improve education and health for the mental well-being of the African American community.
If you observe signs and symptoms of depression or mental illness in your child or teen, call our admissions team today for a free and confidential screening at (805) 366-4000.
Samantha Artiga Follow @SArtiga2 on Twitter, Latoya Hill Follow @hill_latoya on Twitter. “Health Coverage by Race and Ethnicity, 2010-2019.” KFF, July 16, 2021. https://www.kff.org/racial-equity-and-health-policy/issue-brief/health-coverage-by-race-and-ethnicity/.