Mental health difficulties and mental illness are difficult enough for people of any race to acknowledge, much less address, because of well-documented social stigma around these subjects. However, African American communities—and men in particular—experience disproportionate barriers to mental wellness and care compared with other groups. Here are some factors that impact mental health in Black communities:
- African Americans experience mental health problems at the same rate as White Americans, but these can stem from differing causes related to systemic inequities, including trauma, violence, homelessness, and the routine stress of experiencing racism
- Black individuals may be less likely to seek help for mental illness than Whites because of warranted historic and ongoing mistrust of American healthcare systems as a whole
- Black and African American healthcare providers make up only a small percentage of medical and mental health professionals in the US, meaning that many Black patients are unable to access culturally relevant care
Black Men and Mental Health
Black men can face even more difficulty in receiving mental healthcare than their female and White counterparts. This can be attributed in part to all of the factors that impact African American communities’ mental healthcare as a whole.
However, there is an additional complexity that impacts Black men’s mental health: Black men are more likely than White men to internalize traditional elements of idealized masculinity. This can include the need to act tough or invincible and avoid discussing emotional matters. At the same time, exhibiting “manly” behaviors can function as an expression of resistance to and resilience against forms of racist oppression that Black men encounter on a regular basis. Because of this ambiguity, Black masculinity must be navigated with care and empathy.
To address these factors, mental healthcare providers who serve African American patients must be aware of various Black cultural norms as well as the implications of systemic racism for patient wellness. Whenever possible, such professionals should seek additional training in cultural competence and consider the variety of paths that may be most effective for addressing mental health difficulties for each individual.
Get Mental Health Resources With the African American Wellness Project
The African American Wellness Project (AAWP) was organized to respond to inequities in the healthcare delivery system, including those related to mental health problems. African Americans suffer from health conditions at a disproportionately higher rate than other groups; we provide the resources, information, and tools that Black Americans need to get the best quality of healthcare possible. We do this by providing culturally relevant health information and access to African American health experts.
For example, see our press release on mental health support for Black communities.
Check out our Mental Health Resources page or contact us to learn more. Join AAWP in the fight as we do our part to ensure that the African American community receives equitable comprehensive healthcare, and consider donating today!