Not everyone knows this but Martin Luther King suffered bouts of severe depression throughout his life. That’s because King didn’t speak out about his mental illness, and even refused to seek treatment.
During that time, there was much more stigma around mental illness than there is today. But even now, over half a century after King’s death, many African Americans still don’t get the mental health care they need.
In fact, only a third of African Americans who need treatment actually get it.
So while we celebrate civil rights legacies like Martin Luther King today, it’s important to remember that we’ve still got a long way to go before we realize the dream of equality.
Beyond that, as a human, whether you’re African American, Canadian, Latino, Asian, or European, there’s so much baggage and stigma surrounding a simple ask for help.
That’s why a reliable anonymous virtual mental health care therapy tool for anyone in need can prove very helpful and more cost-effective than traditional therapies. Let’s talk about mental health needs in our communities and learn more about resources that can help anytime, anywhere.
Mental Health in African-American Communities
Mental illness affects African-Americans at roughly the same rate as every other population in the U.S. However, the lasting legacy of slavery and systemic discrimination leads to African-Americans experiencing more risk factors for mental illness than other communities.
African-Americans are at greater risk of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, violent crime, and substance abuse – all of which are linked to poorer mental health.
That’s why virtual mental health care offers a way to quickly address issues that might otherwise go unresolved or have a lack of understanding attached to them. Mental health concerns like loneliness and depression, social anxiety, and other concerns require understanding, patience, help, and often therapy.
A quick reference, free, downloadable app with virtual mental health care coping tools can provide African-Americans and others alike with the support and resources needed to make a change.
The Need for Virtual Mental Health Care
In many African American communities, mental illness still isn’t well-understood or talked about. There are barriers present such as lack of trust, understanding, and this misrepresentation of symptoms of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illnesses.
There’s a common use of phrases like “having the blues,” and feeling “down” or “stressed” – phrases that can hide how much people are struggling with mental illness. Here are some of the reasons for the struggle:
1. Lack of Understanding of Mental Illness
Cultural norms lead people to keep quiet about their struggles to protect their reputation and their families’ reputation. Talking openly about mental health problems just isn’t as common in African American communities. And that lack of conversation means a poorer understanding of symptoms, treatment options, and the reality that anyone can experience mental illness.
2. The Stigma Around Mental Illness
There’s still a stigma around mental health in African American communities. Like in many communities, having a mental illness can be seen as being “weak” or “unable to cope.” People – especially young black men – are often encouraged to “man up” and tough it out, rather than sharing how they feel and asking for help.
But the truth is that mental illness affects African Americans at the same rate as other groups. And breaking down the stigma around mental health is vital for black communities to get the health care they deserve.
Fortunately, things are starting to change. Jay-Z has spoken out about how therapy changed his life for the better and called out the “ridiculous” stigma around mental illness in black communities
3. Unequal Access to Health Care
Despite the links between poverty, oppression, and mental health issues, entrenched injustices in the US health care system mean that many African-Americans don’t have access to adequate health care, full stop.
Lack of infrastructure, funding, and staff means that some communities lack the facilities needed to assess and treat mental health conditions. So, in these cases especially virtual mental health care can really help with immediate access.
And because of historical bias, many African-American’s don’t trust the health care system to have their best interests in mind. Their experience of prejudice, discrimination, and inadequate care means they are less likely to seek medical treatment, including for mental health issues.
On top of everything, it’s estimated that about 17.5% of African-Americans don’t have health insurance – which means even if they can access mental health treatment, they have no way to pay for it.
4. Lack of cultural competence in health care
Only about 2% of mental health providers in the U.S. are black. And only some others are trained in cultural competence for treating African American patients. There are lots of cultural differences that affect how we experience mental illness and how we approach treatment. For example, African Americans tend to focus on physical symptoms of depression than white patients don’t mention as often.
For a doctor to provide adequate treatment to everyone, regardless of race, gender, or class, they need the cultural competence to understand these differences. Unfortunately, that often isn’t the case.
The lack of cultural competence can lead to misdiagnosis, insufficient treatment, and more negative experiences with health care. In fact, African Americans are less likely to be offered medication or therapy compared to white patients with the same illness.
Resilience Strategies and Striving for Equality in Mental Health
Overcoming entrenched bias in the health care system and changing cultural norms around mental health will take time. But changes are coming, thanks to recognition within both African American communities, and the health care system, that more needs to be done.
Black men and women ranging in age from 25-72 are speaking out about their experiences of mental illness. And mental health care providers are offering more cultural competency training to tackle inadequate care.
So in honor of those who have come before us like Martin Luther King Jr., let’s remember how far we’ve come. But let’s recognize how far we must go to resolve systemic injustices that African Americans still experience to this day – especially when it comes to virtual mental health care.
Reliable Virtual Mental Health Care for African-Americans
ChatOwl’s virtual app can ensure you can capture powerful moments of peace and alleviate mental health anxieties and concerns, helping you feel better much more quickly and affordably with 24-hour accessibility.
Remember ChatOwl is here to help you with ready-to-access, virtual therapy support. Try our free, downloadable app today.