Black History Is An All Year Education
Black History Month:
Black History originally began as a week long celebration in February until 1976 when President Gerald Ford designated the whole month as Black History Month. Every President since Ford has done the same, and every Black History Month since the first has had a theme. This year's theme is Black Resistance. It's about celebrating Black American's perseverance in the face of racism, discrimination, and oppression throughout history, but also to this very day.
Black Mental Health Gap:
Though much progress has been made to raise awareness for mental health needs and try to normalize the use of mental health services, there are still large racial disparities in mental health. Black individuals are more likely to report serious psychological distress, to be the victims of serious violent crimes, and t
o experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than non-Hispanic white individuals. Yet only 1/4 of Black Americans seek out mental health treatment.
The most common reasons Black Americans do not seek out mental health treatment are:
The cost (or perceived cost) of services.
Accessibility - Not having services near them or not knowing where to go.
The stigma surrounding mental health treatment.
Fear of discrimination/lack of representation (as of today, only 8% of mental health professionals are Black Americans.
Bridging the Gap
Here are just a few ways to address the racial inequities in mental health:
We must continue to raise awareness for mental health needs and keep the conversation going in order to normalize the use of mental health services.
We must also use our voices to highlight organizations that provide services and/or are more accessible for the Black community (i.e: community outreach organizations like Steel Smiling and Neighborhood Resilience Project).
There is a belief that "therapy is for crazy people" which is not only wildly untrue, but a harmful statement to perpetuate. People need to know that mental health is a spectrum, and that no matter where you fall on it, you will not be written off as "crazy."
We, as counselors, must take it upon ourselves to be culturally aware and open to the unique experience of Black Americans to better treat them.