Mental health stigma still affecting African Americans

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent | 7/13/2019, 9:04 a.m.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health says poverty level affects mental health status and ...
Depression/mental health Rawpixel.com photo

“In all aspects of life, the African American community has had to appear better than the average person just to be seen as good enough,” Taylor-Klaus said.

“African American families have long been conscious of a need to dress their kids a little nicer in public, to expect their kids to behave more respectfully in public, and to follow directions immediately,” Taylor-Klaus said.

“The implications for the adults when kids don’t behave has been a risk-factor — when an ‘uppity’ child acts out, an African American adult can get in serious, life-threatening trouble. It’s not reasonable — but it’s a reality of African American life in the United States,” she said.

There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness and some of the more common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders, according to Mental Health America, the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness.

Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.

Mental health problems may be related to excessive stress due to a particular situation or series of events.

As with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, mental illnesses are often physical as well as emotional and psychological. According to Mental Health America, mental illnesses may be caused by a reaction to environmental stresses, genetic factors, biochemical imbalances, or a combination of:

Confused thinking

Prolonged depression (sadness or irritability)

Feelings of extreme highs and lows

Excessive fears, worries and anxieties

Social withdrawal

Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits

Strong feelings of anger

Strange thoughts (delusions)

Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations)

Growing inability to cope with daily problems and activities

Suicidal thoughts

Numerous unexplained physical ailments

Substance use

In Older Children and Pre-Adolescents:

Substance use

Inability to cope with problems and daily activities

Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits

Excessive complaints of physical ailments

Changes in ability to manage responsibilities – at home and/or at school

Defiance of authority, truancy, theft, and/or vandalism

Intense fear

Prolonged negative mood, often accompanied by poor appetite or thoughts of death

Frequent outbursts of anger

In Younger Children:

Changes in school performance

Poor grades despite strong efforts

Changes in sleeping and/or eating habits

Excessive worry or anxiety (i.e. refusing to go to bed or school)

Hyperactivity

Persistent nightmares

Persistent disobedience or aggression

Frequent temper tantrums

For detailed information about mental illness and where assistance is provided visit, www.nami.org; www.mentalhealthamerica.net; or www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov.

Part 2 in this series will tackle the growing number of suicides among young African Americans, an alarming trend that experts say is the result of poverty, racism, and post-traumatic stress syndrome both from military service and domestic and social problems.