Mental Health In African Americans

by Rayiah Ross

African Americans are no different when it comes to mental health than it compares to the rest of the population. As a community, it is our responsibility to look out for the people who may be struggling and support them through whatever times they might be going through. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, each year 44,193 Americans die by suicide. According to the World Health Organization, the observance of mental health is a chance to “make mental health care a reality for people for people worldwide.” Mental health issues range anywhere from anxiety disorders to personality disorders and everything in between. Each one of these individuals struggling with these conditions is part of our community and have a network of family, friends, and work or schoolmates. Regardless of circumstance, we have an important role in supporting those who are vulnerable.

For many suicide prevention advocates, it took the death of someone close to them for them to be aware of the issue. No person would like to think that the person next to them is suicidal, but it is actually more common than you think. The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention stated that there are 121 suicides per day. Suicide, like many other human behaviors, have no single cause. There are, of course, risk factors such as: depression, health conditions, financial challenges, legal problems, and abuse relationship problems, but there is no leading cause.  

Although anyone can develop a mental health problem, African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Common mental health disorders among African Americans include:

  • Major depression
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Suicide
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), because African Americans are more likely to be victims of violent crime

Given  the negative impact doctors have on African American care, it is easy to understand why so many people of color mistrust health professionals in general and avoid accessing care. While you do have a reason to doubt whether professionals will mistreat you , do not let this fear prevent you from seeking care.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, many people who are suicidal offer several warning signs including, talking about wanting to die, looking for a way to kill oneself, talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose, talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, talking about being a burden to others, increasing the use of alcohol or drugs, acting anxious, agitated or recklessly, sleeping too little or too much, withdrawing or feeling isolated, showing rage or talking about seeking revenge and displaying extreme mood swings. “The more of the signs a person shows, the greater the risk,” officials of the New Mexico Department of Health stated.

If someone exhibits warning signs of imminent suicide, do not leave the person alone. If you or someone you know might be suicidal or have thoughts of hurting themselves or others, contact the National Suicide Prevention Line, 1(800)-273-8255. They are available 24 hours and provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional 7 days a week.


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