Black Folks and Adequate mental health care
I want to start by saying ensuring proper mental health care for black folk is my main purpose. A purpose that was developed through the lived black experience and professional work with black folk.
For a very very long time and probably still today mental health care wasn’t seen as the most proper thing to do. Black folk and mental health have a negative history because for a long time a mental health diagnosis was a way to condone and maintain slavery. Mental health diagnosis was used in a punitive way for the black body. Black culture was villainized, racism and discrimination thrived and on some level all of this is still happening.
In a 2020 article by Counseling Today it was reported that black men, are over-diagnosed with schizophrenia (four times more likely than white men to be diagnosed), while under-diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and mood disorders.
Schizophrenia is a chronic brain disorder that affects less than one percent of the populations and it includes symptoms of hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and lack of motivation. Schizophrenia for lack of better words is a serious mental disorder. I don’t want to make the case that other diagnosis can’t be problematic but Schizophrenia can create a decompensation in a person that may not be changeable.
Bringing this back to the racial disparities and discrimination in mental health care affecting black folk, if we look at Posttraumatic Stress Disorder which is under diagnosed in black folk we can see that there are many more factors pointing to this being the most probable reasoning for a black person’s mental health deterioration.
If we look a little closer at PTSD it is defined as a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.
The black experience is riddled with terrifying events directly experienced and witnessed on a daily , even hourly basis. The relationship that exists currently between mental health and the black body is a direct correlation to the mistrust black folk have developed as a result of inadequate mental health care!
As a black woman who is a mental health clinician assisting in the redesign of how black folk connect to and engage with mental health care is of the utmost importance that I preserve my space for those that look like me. In my practice 85% of my clients identify as BIPOC. In my consultation with prospective clients, I discuss with them the reason why they are choosing me as a provider and they say it’s because I am black.
According to the American Psychological Association in 2020 4.24% of the psychology workforce was Black/African American and 84.47% of the psychology workforce was white. It goes without saying that those numbers are drastically different.
When we think of all that has happened since 2020 and how that has universally affected the world mental health was the major thing that people sought out for refuge. When we make that view a little wider and include the constant showing of black death in media, deaths due to racism/discrimination it makes me go back to the definition of PTSD.
We all dealt with the fear of death at the hands of COVID. Some people lost loved ones very quickly, not knowing if anything would ever be the same. This terrifying event that was COVID created a sense of fear and vulnerability that didn’t exist before and a lot of people sought out mental health care.
When we think of black folk and what they need lets hold in mind that not only did they experience this lived terrifying pandemic experience but day in and day out they encounter other terrifying events that include racism discrimination, police brutality, and community violence. Now think about the big gap in how much of the mental health workforce encompasses a black clinician, remember that (4.24%). My question is how we can ensure that black folk are getting adequate mental health care.
Adequate mental health care isn’t just knowing symptoms and diagnosis people or being able to regurgitate theories, but it is about the safeness that one feels in the presence of another because they know for that 45minutes to an hour their trauma will be held and not judged or used in a punitive way. Adequate mental health care for Black Folk is feeling like how you say something, and it will be understood; The issues you bring up have a shared meaning between you and your practitioner.
Black Folks and Adequate mental health care