Mental Health Care Barriers in Black Communities | SilverCloud Health


Celebrated every July since its adoption in 2008, the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as BIPOC Mental Health Month, was established by the US House of Representatives to drive public awareness of mental illness among minorities.

While mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity, over 16% of the Black American population, which accounts for 13.4% of the American population, report struggling with a mental illness.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only 1 in 3 Black American adults with mental health conditions seek treatment each year, compared to the U.S. average of 43 percent. This is in largely in part due to access to reliable mental health care – which Black Americans often do not have.

For more perspectives on mental health across BIPOC backgrounds and communities, please see NAMI’s docuseries – Strength over Silence.

Factors That Affect Mental Health

Black communities continue to experience an increased rate of mental health concerns – with suicide being reported as the second leading cause of death in 2019 for Black Americans ages 15 to 24 as reported by the US Department of Health and Human Services -Office of Minority Health.

Mental health concerns can be directly correlated to a history of medical trauma causing an increased distrust of the medical community, criminal justice issues, and economic insecurity. In addition, Black Americans continue to face social issues concerning classism, racism, and health inequity.

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Socioeconomic Inequalities

According to the American Psychiatric Association, socioeconomic disparities stem from historical adversity, as well as race-based exclusion from educational, social, health, and economic resources.

According to Jardin Dogan, therapist, and founder of @blkfolkxtherapy, most of the psychological training that mental health professionals receive is based on the experiences of white people, which can influence the competency of non-Black therapists. Mental health professional training programs rarely include the voices of Black practitioners, researchers, and theorists.

The Cultural Stigma Associated with Mental Health

While Black Americans experience a broad range of attitudes toward mental health treatment, there’s an ongoing stigma surrounding mental illness that prevents many from getting help they deserve and need. It’s important to note how the stigma, and the forces that construct the stigma, make it difficult for individuals to seek professional health. Beliefs about mental illness are formed through negative experience due to medical neglect, formal education, and cultural traditions. Studies have shown that Black communities are more likely to say that mental illness is associated with embarrassment and shame.

With 63% of Black Americans indicating that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness, there’s a need for improved cultural awareness and corresponding responsiveness in the mental health workforce. Luckily, with the emergence of social media and other online resources, the development and funding for culturally responsive mental health treatments are growing.

In addition to @blkfolkxtherapy, here are some other Black American social media accounts to follow:

High Costs of Mental Health Care

Despite the Affordable Care Act, roughly 23 percent of Black Americans live below the poverty level, compared to 10 percent of white Americans. Vladimire Calixte, LMHC, the founder of Therapy For Black Men, explained that economic disparities for Black people due to systemic racism cause many to live without insurance and cannot afford treatment. It’s reported by NAMI that approximately only 11% of all Black Americans have access to health insurance.

While some Black Americans may have insurance, some therapists choose not to accept insurance, and often many people do not understand how to use out-of-network benefits to cover session costs. Paying out of pocket isn’t a viable option for many people, and that lack of financial means hinders Black communities from consistently engaging in mental health care.

Culturally Responsive Mental Health Treatment

Because of the lack of racial diversity in mental health care providers, with less than 2% of all American Psychological Association members identifying as Black Americans, many Black Americans may feel under-represented in the mental health care community.

With a lack of representation comes a lack of information about mental health issues facing Black communities. Many Black Americans also have trouble recognizing the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, which leads them to underestimate the severity of these conditions - and often times when reporting these symptoms to care providers they are misdiagnosed or under-diagnosed.

By providing your patients smart, measurable, and impactful mental health resources that are also culturally responsive, you’re investing in the health and happiness of your community. At SilverCloud, we bring nearly two decades of direct clinical research on digital delivery of mental and behavioral health, coupled with easy-to-use technology. Our programs help you further reach patients who struggle with chronic conditions or have stigma-related concerns surrounding mental healthcare.

More than half a million users today can access a broad range of programs from their smartphone, tablet, or computer at any time, providing them with immediate access to solutions that are proven to better help them manage their mental health. When you partner with SilverCloud as your digital mental health provider, you can scale across your entire member population. Learn more about SilverCloud for your organization

"While everyone - all colors - everyone is affected by stigma - no one wants to say 'I'm not in control of my mind.' No one wants to say, 'The person I love is not in control of [their] mind.'

But people of color really don't want to say it because we already feel stigmatized by virtue of skin color or eye shape or accent and we don't want any more reasons for anyone to say, 'You're not good enough.'" – Bebe Moore Campbell


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