Today marks the year anniversary of George Floyd’s death, a Black man from Minneapolis, MN who was murdered by law enforcement.

His was one of the many heartbreaking deaths that sparked a summer of protests, discussions on civil injustice, and the beginnings of reforming systematic inequalities in America.

When we think of the past 365 days, what’s changed, and where we are; there is still so much work and healing to be done.

Mental health is one of the critical issues facing Black communities in America and sadly, because of the racial injustice African Americans face daily, this community has become more susceptible to experience mental illness.

Mental Health Issues Faced By Black Communities

“Racism is a public health crisis,” according to a May 2020 statement from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). This means that racism — whether unintentional, unconsciously, or concealed — has affected Black Americans’ access to equal and “culturally competent” health care.

Racism is also a stressor for mental health problems.

In the U.S. surgeon general’s groundbreaking 2016 report Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, it states that Black Americans “are over-represented in populations that are particularly at risk for mental illness.”

Why? NAMI, “the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization,” says it’s because Black people in the United States have been affected by racism and racial trauma “repeatedly throughout history.”

To break it down, racism and racial trauma did not end with the abolition of slavery in 1865, the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or the election of the first Black U.S. president in 2008. The protests of 2020 are a sharp reminder of that.

Mental illnesses such as depression and substance abuse can have a biological component, but they also can be caused or made more likely by external factors.

The Stigma Around Seeking Mental Health Care

According to the U.S. Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, Black Americans are less likely to have their mental health problems addressed than Americans as a whole: about 30% compared to 43%.

While most studies find about the same or less (depending on age) incidences of mental health problems among Black Americans, they are less likely to seek help for it. Only one-third of adult Black Americans who need mental health care receive it.

A big barrier might be that there is still a stigma or shame attached to needing mental health treatment, especially among the Black community. Working to removing this stigma is necessary to get more Black Americans into treatment.

Among the ways to do this are:

  • Teaching people that the brain is like any other part of the body: sometimes it needs treatment.
  • Replacing the idea that mental illness is a weakness with the idea that it takes strength to acknowledge a problem and to try to fix it.

Black Mental Health Resources

Here are some free or low-cost sources for mental health treatment:

Here are some sources for culturally competent mental health providers:

At Kush Queen, we want to help to start a conversation about how racism affects the African American community's mental health. And help to reduce the shame and stigma sometimes associated with mental illness and mental health treatment.

The content of this post was originally featured on Sunshine Behavioral Health’s website and is being shared with their permission.