Please call 911 if there is an immediate risk for harm or an emergency
For suicide intervention, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to get help by phone at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) Toll-free in the U.S. 24 hours a day.
To report a sexual assault, Call 911 or contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) to speak with a trained sexual assault service provider in your area.
As with other issues facing African Americans such as racism, systemic inequality and health disparities compared to their non-Black counterparts, access to mental health treatment is no different. The COVID-19 pandemic, the uptick in fatal police encounters with unarmed African Americans and racial unrest in 2020 have exacerbated the dire need for culturally relevant mental health services for African Americans. After multiple killings of unarmed Black* civilians in 2020, the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) declared racism a public health crisis:
“Our nation’s African American community is going through an extremely painful experience, pain that has been inflicted upon this community repeatedly throughout history and is magnified by mass media and repeated deaths. We stand with all the families, friends and communities who have lost loved ones senselessly due to racism. And, with more than 100,000 lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic – disproportionately from minority communities – these recent deaths add gasoline to the fire of injustice.
“While there is much we need to do to address racism in our country, we must not forget the importance of mental health as we do so. Racism is a public health crisis…”
Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI
Fast Facts about African Americans and Mental Health:
According to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities:
African Americans are less likely to have health insurance.
African Americans are less likely to receive an accurate mental health diagnosis and, for those who are diagnosed with depression, less likely to receive treatment than their White counterparts are.
Cultural mistrust of mental health professionals and health care professionals in general is common in the African American community.
Only a small proportion of mental health professionals are African American.
African Americans’ depressive occurrences are more disabling, persistent, and resistant to treatment than those experienced by Whites.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among African Americans ages 15 to 24.
African American men are four times more likely to die by suicide than African American women are.
Less than half of all Americans with a mental disorder get the treatment that they need. But the proportion of African Americans who need mental health treatment and get it is only half that of Whites.
Infographic provided courtesy of Sunshine Behavioral Health
Another barrier preventing African Americans from receiving mental health treatment is the stigma of mental illness in the community. In an article by Sunshine Behavioral Health, there are several reasons there is a stigma about mental illness within the Black community:
- 63% of Black Americans believe mental illness is a sign of weakness or is a personal failing. that. Faith communities, despite their good points, can perpetuate or reinforce this attitude.
- Seeking mental health treatment may reflect poorly on their families. A common perception among members of the community is that a therapist’s go-to is to blame problems on their clients’ mothers and fathers.
- Speaking with a therapist is akin airing dirty laundry in public. Such problems should be addressed by the family or larger community rather than strangers. Except they often don’t.
Removing this stigma — or at least disregarding it — is necessary to get more Black Americans into treatment that can improve their lives.
Among the ways to do this are:
- Teaching people that the brain is like any other part of the body: sometimes it needs to be examined by a physician.
- Replacing the idea that mental illness is a weakness with the idea that it takes strength to acknowledge a problem and to try to fix it.
- Explaining how taking prescribed medication isn’t like drug abuse. Sometimes medications can restore normalcy in conjunction with therapies.
- Access to Black and culturally diverse physicians and psychotherapists.
For further reading see: Mental Health Issues Facing the Black Community.
Culturally-Competent Mental Health Providers:
- Association of Black Psychologists Directory. The mission of the Association of Black Psychologists is liberation of the African Mind, empowerment of the African Character, and enlivenment and illumination of the African Spirit. Funding for the ABPsi goes in part to creating scholarly journals, training programs, recruitment of students and faculty and community mental health care programs.
- Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM). BEAM is a a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities.
- Black Female Therapists. A resource for Black and Brown women and girls to find a therapist that looks like them.
- Black Male Therapists Directory. Black men and boys can also find a therapist through the directory on the Black Female Therapists website.
- Black Men Speak. Black Men Speak works to inform and enlighten the mental health community and the general public about issues concerning African-American men with mental health and substance abuse challenges through a speakers bureau.
- Black Mental Wellness. Founded by clinical psychologists, who through their training and expertise, recognized the need for culturally competent professionals to collaborate and address mental health issues that are prevalent and unique to the experiences of Black people.
- Black Mental Health Alliance. BHMA develops, promotes and sponsors trusted culturally-relevant educational forums, trainings and referral services that support the health and well-being of Black people and vulnerable communities. BHMA provides a directory of Black Psychiatrists well as confidential referrals for individuals seeking to connect with culturally-competent and patient-centered licensed mental health professionals.
- Brother, You’re on My Mind. A collaboration between The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Omega Psi Phi chapters and their partners use the toolkit to help plan and execute community education events and build strategic community partnerships to advance initiative goals.
- InnoPsych. InnoPsych strives to make therapists of color more visible in the community and shift how communities of color (or POCs) view therapy.
- LGBTQ Psychotherapists of Color Directory. QTOC is a San Francisco/Bay Area grassroots, volunteer-led group providing support, networking, leadership development, and community building opportunities for LGBTQs of Color in Psychology, Social Work, and Counseling. Use their directory to find an LGBTQ Psychotherapist of Color.
- Melanin and Mental Health. Connects individuals with culturally competent clinicians committed to serving the mental health needs of Black & Latinx/Hispanic communities. Check out the Directory of “Dope Therapists.”
- My Tru Circle. Find a therapist online.
- Ourselves Black. An online and print publication working to challenge and change the predominant narratives of Black people and mental health. In addition to a print and online magazine, Ourselves Black publishes a podcast and a directory of providers.
- Sista Afya Community Mental Wellness. Chicago-area organization providing sliding-scale rates for mental health treatment for Black women. They provide mental wellness workshops and a podcast in addition to individual and group therapy.
- Therapy for Black Girls. An online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Use the therapist locator to find a therapist. Therapy for Black Girls also has a blog, podcast, and online community.
- Therapy for Queer People of Color. Therapy for Queer People of Color (QPoC) is a mental health network based in Atlanta, Georgia. Use the directory to find an affirming therapist.
*The terms Black and African American are used interchangeably.