Mental health issues are a problem that affects people of all races and walks of life. But the subject of mental health is one that isn’t talked about much in the Black community. Mental illness affects the Black community just as much as any other but reporting it has been until recently almost considered taboo, and that needs to change.
It is said that 1 out of 5 Americans will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime and with African Americans, the figures are depressing. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.
African Americans make up approximately 13 percent of the total U.S. population but make up a disproportional 40 percent of those experiencing homelessness. Being part of the homeless population makes it even more likely to develop some form of mental illness. Then there’s the higher likelihood of interaction with the police that life on the streets brings with it. Law enforcement officials need to be equipped with the latest strategies and training in interacting with those suspected or known to be mentally ill.
But there are ways to at least begin to address mental health issues within the Black community. Education and awareness are the first step and getting people to talk about it can make a difference. But getting people to talk about mental illness may be a little more challenging, particularly in the Black community where such things are not often discussed.
Talking about mental illness can make anyone uncomfortable and much of it has to do with the stigma surrounding the subject. Through awareness and education, the sigma can be removed and ultimately that is what needs to be done so that all those in need of help can receive it.