Mental health does not discriminate. It has been proven that regardless of race, gender, religion or creed “1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness each year” [source]. However, proper access to mental health treatment has been largely inaccessible to Minority demographics in the United States. Until May of 2008, when the U.S. House of Representatives named July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, the U.S. had not formally addressed the Mental Health disparities in the country. The resolution was created to; Improve access to mental health treatment and services, promote public awareness of mental illness and name a month as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and particularly among minorities.
The latter of those goals were achieved when the month of July was chosen. The former goal has not been easily resolved. The issues with access to mental health treatment has a distinct impact on Black people in America. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than White adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress. However only one in three Black adults who need mental health care receive it. According to the American Psychiatric Association, Black Americans are less likely to receive guideline-consistent care, less frequently included in research, and are more likely to use emergency rooms or primary care (rather than mental health specialists) [source].
Black people in America deal with traumas caused by inequities, discrimination, and racism. Which can cause a significant amount of mental stress leading to “"racial battle fatigue," which includes anxiety and worry, hyper-vigilance, headaches, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and other physical and psychological symptoms.” [source] It is important that the disparities within mental health treatment change to allow proper access and understanding of the mental wellness needs within the Black community. This month is a reminder that we all must work diligently to reduce the stigma around mental health conditions and support access to proper mental health resources.
By Kevin J.