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Mental Health Awareness Month: Adding Black Voices Into the Narrative


May is mental health awareness month, a month dedicated to helping eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness and raising awareness for mental health conditions and concerns. This month sheds light on an important topic that is often overlooked and under-represented. So many people suffer in silence with mental health issues because of the stigmatization of these issues and because people simply do not have enough resources and knowledge on the matter. According to CenterStone.Org, one in five adults and one in six youth in the United States experience mental health illnesses each year. Out of those individuals, only 45% of them will actually receive treatment.


Now, while all these numbers and averages encompass the entire United States population, a group that is often overlooked in this conversation is African Americans. This happens for a variety of reasons. For one, it is almost taboo to speak about mental health disorders with family and friends in the black community because people associate that with a negative connotation of either being crazy, delirious or unstable. Also, there is not much data and resources for the black community when it comes to mental health issues and many factors are not taken into consideration including generational trauma and racial trauma. Lastly, the financial dichotomy between the black community and the white community plays a big factor when it comes to issues of mental health.


According to Mental Health America over 7 million African-Americans reported having a mental illness.


And there's often issues when it comes to treatment. While white counterparts are often diagnosed with having a mood disorder and given therapy to help with these issues, black and African-American people are often diagnosed as lazy, or given a more severe diagnosis, as opposed to having a mood disorder. Also, many mental health practitioners are not culturally competent when it comes to treating specific issues that affect the African American community. This can lead to misdiagnosis and misunderstandings when it comes to these mental health issues. Lastly, many Black Americans don't have access to help. Due to disparities with health insurance and lack of funding in communities, many African Americans who would like to receive treatment, help, and counseling are unable to.


So how can we add black voices into the narrative of mental health awareness? For starters, we can advocate for cultural competence for trained professionals. It is important that license professionals receive training in different backgrounds because it'll help them when it comes to cultural sensitivity and patient-centered care. Having an understanding of how different backgrounds influence our communication, lifestyle choices, and overall outlook on life is imperative. Secondly, it's important that Black people have access to help. There are a number of organizations (linked below) that are advocating for black spaces where people have affordable and accessible care. It's important that we continue to rally for these programs and support them in order to ensure that Black people can access the same programs that are helpful to their counterparts. And lastly we need to break down the stigma of talking about mental health. It is not something to be ashamed of but rather celebrated. We should celebrate the fact that we are opening up and sharing our thoughts and feelings with one another. It's important to have these conversations so we can encourage others who are suffering silently to seek out help. So for this Mental Health Awareness Month, I challenge you to do your own research and support Black mental health. Speak either with a friend, family member, or professional if you're struggling, or share your story with others if you feel comfortable. Let's uplift and amplify Black voices in this space.


Resources:


Academics for Black Survival and Wellness - https://www.academics4blacklives.com/

Sista Afya - https://www.sistaafya.com/

Black Girls Smile - https://www.blackgirlssmile.org/

Black Mental Health Alliance - https://blackmentalhealth.com/

The Loveland Foundation - https://thelovelandfoundation.org/

National Alliance on Mental Health - https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/Black-African-American

Therapy for Black Men - https://therapyforblackmen.org/



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