Mental Health Professionals blog

Black History Month: Creating Awareness for Mental Health Needs in African-American Populations

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The following feature and written by Nick Kicior, Outcomes Director at Journey Health System, the support corporation of Stairways Behavioral Health. As we enter Black History Month, Kicior provides compelling reminders for the importance of doing what we can to make ourselves knowledgeable and easily accessible to assist with the issues impacting the African American community.

As we continue to provide individualized, quality care to all of our consumers and their families, it is extremely critical that we become proficient with many diagnoses, environments and, ultimately, cultures. As we look to celebrate diversity and promote ourselves as safe, healing, and empathetic practitioners of recovery, learning more and more about the people and places around us becomes imperative.

Black History Month is an integral part of our nation’s tradition in which we continue to promote positive examples of poignant historical events, exemplary leaders and steps towards societal change. This remembrance is not only deeply meaningful for the African American community, but imperative for the greater understanding of national and world history.

Understanding the statistics regarding mental health and the Black community only make it more important that we do what we can to make ourselves knowledgeable and easily accessible to assist with the issues impacting this community:

  • According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population.
  • Only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites for a variety of reasons that include distrust, misdiagnosis, stigma, socio-economic factors, a lack of Black mental health professionals, and more.
  • Historically, African Americans have been and continue to be negatively affected by prejudice and discrimination in the health care system. Misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and lack of cultural competence by health professionals breed distrust and prevent many African Americans from seeking or staying in treatment.
  • Additionally, the stigma within the Black community makes it less likely an individual will seek treatment earlier on, often times exacerbating the condition at the time of treatment.
  • Homelessness, exposure to violence and trauma and other factors hit the black community harder than others. These combined with 19% of African Americans having no form of health insurance, makes it harder for treatment to get to these individuals in need.
  • Only 3.7% of members in the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5% of members in the American Psychological Association are African American. Bringing more leadership into these areas to represent the needs of communities will assist with bringing more attention to these areas.

Take a moment to explore Black history and become more familiar with things you may not know. It is important that we reflect and celebrate the monumental contributions and use them as a platform for future growth.

Five Reasons to Celebrate Black History Month:

  1. Celebrating Black History Month honors the historic leaders of the Black community.
  2. Celebrating Black History Month helps us to be better stewards of the privileges we’ve gained.
  3. Celebrating Black History month provides an opportunity to highlight the rest of Black history & culture.
  4. Celebrating Black History Month creates awareness for all people.
  5. Celebrating Black History Month reminds us all that Black history is the history of us all.

Written by Nick Kicior, Journey Health System Outcomes Director

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