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Let's talk about Black Mental Health 

Equity has a direct correlation to Black mental health outcomes. Limited access to Black mental health clinicians, unpacked mental health stigma, mental health care systems wrought with unaddressed structural racism, inaccessibility of culturally responsive mental health resources, discrimination in all forms and an overall lack of community understanding of mental health all contribute to poor mental health outcomes in the Black community.

Limited access to Black mental health clinicians:

  • 2% of psychiatrists are Black

  • 4% of psychologists are Black

  • 7% of marriage and family therapists are Black

  • 11% of licensed professional counselors are Black

  • 15% of clinical social workers are Black

Inaccessibility of culturally responsive mental health resources:

  • Black individuals are misdiagnosed at a higher rate than white individuals.

  • Black individuals in mental distress are more likely to have behavior interrupted as uncooperative and met with an increased chance of arrest; which contributes to the already higher percentage of Black individuals incarcerated in the prison industrial complex.

  • Lack of curriculum for mental health professionals

Mental health care systems wrought with unaddressed structural racism:

  • The 2021, the American Psychological Association issued an apology to People of Color for their longstanding contributions to systemic racism.

  • While systemic racism and structural racism are synonymous, structural racism analysis pays more attention to the historical, cultural and social psychological aspects of our currently racialized society.

  • Structural racism refers to the totality of ways in which societies foster racial discrimination through mutually reinforcing systems of housing, education, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care and criminal justice.

  • Structural racism operates through laws and policies that allocate resources in ways that disempower and devalue members of historically disenfranchised and underrepresented populations, resulting in inequitable access to high-quality care.

  • Examples of structural racism include the lack of curriculum for mental health practitioners that address the racist foundations on which the mental health industry was built, the high percentage of uninsured individuals in the Black community and the ongoing dismissal of Black pain and distress by healthcare professionals.

Meditating on Bed

Tobacco Use and Mental Health:

For many individuals managing mental health concerns, smoking can be an easily accessible, maladaptive coping mechanism used to "self-medicate" in an effort to ease feelings of stress and anxiety. However, research has proven that tobacco uses actually increases mental health distress.

 

  • Tobacco use makes people more vulnerable to mental illness.

  • It is estimated that 35% of cigarette smokers have a behavioral health disorder.

  • 1 in 3 adults with mental illness smoke compared to 1 in 5 adults without mental illness; this contributes to shorter life expectancy.

  • Smoking can lower levels of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that is responsible for feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and motivation.

  • Quitting tobacco use can improve mental health and substance use disorder recovery outcomes.

Discrimination in all forms:

  • Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism and discrimination

  • of all forms have a negative impact on mental health outcomes.

  • Mental health can be a hidden disability.

  • Intersectionality, a tenant of critical race theory that describes the ways in which systems of inequality based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, class and other forms of discrimination “intersect” to create unique dynamics, is a invaluable tool for understanding how discrimination impacts Black mental health outcomes.

Lack of community understanding of mental health:

  • Mental health education is needed to broaden community understanding.

By definition, food insecurity is the lack of sufficient food in quantity and/or quality. Research has found that food insecurity and psychological distress are interconnected.

Food Insecurity and Mental Health:

  • Black individuals experience food insecurity at a rate higher than the national average.

  • Nearly 20% of Black individuals lived in a food insecure household.

  • Black individuals are almost three times as likely to face hunger as white individuals.

  • Black children are more likely to experience hunger than children of other races.

  • Black adults that identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to face food insecurity than those who don't (37% versus 27%).

  • Food insecurity has been found to be a primary contributing factor to many mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, trauma and panic disorders.

  • Food insecurity is associated with 257% higher risk of anxiety and 253% higher risk of

  • Adults living with mental health disabilities experience food insecurity and hunger at high rates.

  • Food insecurity can lead to severe cases of malnutrition which negatively impact mental wellbeing.

  • Food insecurity contributes to poor mental health and lower academic performance in college students.

  • Households led by single mothers experience food insecurity at a higher rate.

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