DESPITE DEVASTATING RATES OF SUICIDE AND ILLNESS, MANY AFRICAN AMERICANS CONTINUE WITHOUT THE HELP THEY NEED TO GET BETTER
With the exception of African American celebrities or public figures who experience mental trauma, such as Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., or commit suicide as in the death of hip-hop legend Chris Lighty, mental health remains largely absent from the public discourse in the Black community.
But the statistics are loud and clear. African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic Whites, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Services. Yet young adult African Americans, especially those with higher levels of education, are less likely to seek mental health services than their White counterparts, according to a study published by the American Psychological Association.
When the evidence proves African Americans are disproportionately more likely to experience circumstances that increase the chances of having a mental illness or challenge, it begs the question: why do so many African Americans suffer in silence?
"We know that African Americans have a disproportionate number who are also in poverty and a higher jobless rate. Women are less likely to be coupled or in supportive relationships and so those factors into why African Americans may have higher numbers of psychological disorders," said Dr. Janet Taylor, Director of the Guest Support Team for "The Jeremy Kyle Show."
Dr. Taylor, a psychiatrist who frequently appears on television shows including CBS' "The Early Show," and NBC's "TODAY," said other psycho-social reasons include socio-economic status, poverty and crime in African American communities.
But there is also a cultural component at play. Dr. Taylor said health care providers can be insensitive to the cultural experiences of African Americans. "There are some health care providers who assume that...strife in black people or having a difficult time are what's to be expected," said Dr. Taylor. "...In some cases they may normalize what may be a traumatic reaction."
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