African American Mental Health: What are the facts?

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted Jun 29, 2014

July is National Minority Mental Health Month. As we bring awareness to mental health, we need to also strive to strengthen services in these communities.  In 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell designated July as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. To read more about Bebe Moore Campbell, please visit the National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month website.

Facts about African American Mental Health

  • African Americans in the United States are less likely to receive accurate diagnoses than their Caucasian counterparts.
  • Culture biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevent many African Americans from accessing care due to prior experiences with historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and a lack of cultural under standing; only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the United States are African American.
  • Mental illness is frequently stigmatized and misunderstood in the African American community. African Americans are much more likely to seek help though their primary care doctors as opposed to accessing specialty care.
  • African Americans tend to rely on family, religious and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though this may at times be necessary. The health care providers they seek may not be aware of this important aspect of person life.
  • Programs in African American communities sponsored by respected institutions, such as churches and local community groups can increase awareness of mental health issues and resources and decrease the related stigma

Psychotherapy and African Americans

Psychotherapy is effective for treating a variety of issues and is useful for all ethnic and cultural groups. In my previous blog, I discussed how many African Americans view seeking treatment for mental health problems as less desirable or less culturally acceptable. As a field we need to continue to improve our ability to work with diverse cultural groups. For more resources on African American mental health visit the NAMI website.  You can also visit the links below if you’re interested in finding treatment.

Locate a psychologist here:

You can also find a therapist or mental health provider here:


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Copyright 2014 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.

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