MENTAL HEALTH + THE BLACK COMMUNITY| STIGMA ON BLACK MENTAL HEALTH
MENTAL HEALTH + THE BLACK COMMUNITY | STIGMA ON BLACK MENTAL HEALTH
Have you heard these phrases? "You're too sensitive," "Crying is weak," "You don't have time to be sad."
A study found that African Americans held more negative attitudes toward individuals with mental illness than other racial and ethnic groups (Ward, Earlise C et al. “African American Women's beliefs, coping behaviors, and barriers to seeking mental health services,2009).
African Americans have developed a "toughen up" mentality because of the historical issues that we've had to deal with, from slavery to now the "Black Lives Matter Movement." The Black community has been through a lot, and because of this "toughen up" attitude, it leaves no room for dealing with mental health issues; just brush it off and move on. That's what we've had to do for so many years.
Culturally Black women have maintained the image of being strong and self-reliant. Black men also preserve the appearance of being strong. These cultural stereotypes have played a part in the stigma on black mental health.
RACISM IN HEALTHCARE
Historical events such as the Tuskegee Experiment has contributed to the lack of trust in the healthcare system. Not only that, but Clinicians have also believed these cultural stereotypes, which play a role in the black community's distrust in the health care system. The clinicians that believe the "strong black man/woman" concept has invalidated black men's and women's experiences; they lack empathy towards the black man/woman and minimize their symptoms.
When it comes to coping mechanisms that contribute to stigma in the black community, cultural beliefs play a role. One example is religion being the solution to most problems, the idea that "All You Need Is Jesus" and everything will be fine. Another example is the idea that family issues should not be discussed with those outside of the family.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? DESTIGMATIZE
These unrealistic expectations of Black Men and Black women play a role in the stigma on black mental health. Systemic and Individual barriers are also contributing factors. Normalizing emotional expression and having open conversations about mental health will help tremendously. Also, changing attitudes towards ALL mental health issues, not just some, such as stop tearing down those that struggle with mental health issues.
Less than 2% of American Psychological Association members are Black or African American (Ward, Earlise C et al. “African American Women's beliefs, coping behaviors, and barriers to seeking mental health services,2009).Having more black professional practitioners will restore some trust in the health care system and relatability to seeing someone that looks like them.
Having more black professional practitioners and more narratives of black people being open about their struggles will contribute to destigmatization.
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