At Mental Health America, we believe that everyone at risk for mental illnesses and related disorders should receive early and effective interventions. Historically, communities of color experience unique and considerable challenges in accessing mental health services.
Stigma and judgment prevent many people from seeking treatment for their mental illnesses but are particularly prevalent in African American culture. Research indicates that African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered "crazy" in their social circles. Furthermore, many believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate even among family. African American men are particularly concerned about stigma.
Despite progress made over the years, racism continues to have an impact on the mental health of African Americans. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection have decreased, but continue to occur with measurable, adverse consequences. Historical and contemporary instances of negative treatment have led to a mistrust of authorities, many of whom are not seen as having the best interests of African Americans in mind.
Because less than 2% of American Psychological Association members are African American, some may worry that mental health care practitioners are not culturally competent enough to treat their specific issues. This is compounded by the fact that some African American patients have reported experiencing racism and microaggression from therapists.