Black people in the United States have had a tumultuous history, and in recent years this has come to the forefront of public consciousness. Due to the racially charged climate in recent years, the recent and ongoing police brutality, and police shootings of Black people in America, we have seen increasing levels of anxiety and stress among Black people all across the country. Living in a constant state of elevated stress and tension can produce negative effects on someone’s mental health. When combined with a substance use disorder, this can lead to very negative outcomes. In this article, we will examine the state of mental health and substance abuse among Black people today. We will also provide helpful resources for recovery from both of these conditions.
That being said, there is a heavy emphasis on social support and religious counsel within the Black community in America. This may overlap into the realm of mental healthcare somewhat. Black Americans have the highest church attendance out of any racial group in America. Church attendance is often connected to mental health issues, particularly among Black Americans. In times of distress, Black people tend to increase their participation in church. There are other non-organizational religious practices that increase during times of mental distress. Prayer, meditation, and reading religious literature are often comforting in times of distress. Whatever the reason, religious practices and community can be beneficial for someone struggling with mental illness.
Fear is another barrier between Black individuals and professional mental health treatment. One study found that the rates of fear were roughly 2.5 times greater among Black people than their white counterparts. While the stigma that accompanies mental illness remains present, younger generations are more accepting of professional help. The Affordable Care Act has caused the gap between Black and white Americans seeking healthcare to shrink. Greater access to health insurance, changing cultural attitudes toward mental health and wellness, and open discussions about mental illness has created a change in the mental health landscape of Black people in America.
Black Americans have lower rates of substance abuse than white Americans. The duration of that substance abuse, however, seems to persist longer among Black people. Substance abuse is more common among Black people living in major metropolitan areas. While they vary, the rates of substance abuse in urban areas is almost twice as high as in rural areas.
The rates of co-occurring substance abuse and mental illness among Black people are lower than other ethnic groups. The exceptions are PTSD, dysthymia, and agoraphobia. These disorders are more often dignosed in Black populations than in other racial groups.
“…integrated, concurrent treatment that addresses both conditions simultaneously has generated strong empirical support, appears to be preferable to clients, and is increasingly considered the current standard of care, particularly when combining psychosocial and pharmacologic approaches.”
-SAMHSA T.I.P. 42, 2020 Edition, Page 87
There are many mental health resources that are freely available online today that are by Black people, for Black people. Recognizing the signs of mental health challenges is only the first step, reaching out and asking for help is the next. Being able to do so safely and comfortably can go a long way toward allowing someone to speak up and say that one magic word: Help.
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