As we celebrate Black History Month, we want to acknowledge what mental health means in the Black community and share resources to help you support your peers, friends, and communities as a Mental Health First Aider.
As a Mental Health First Aider, you are certified to use this life-saving training to assist people of all races, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds and identities, helping them get the additional information and support they may need. To be effective, and to honor their diversity, it is crucial to take your peers’ identities and lived experiences into account when having conversations: The ways they identify will inform their approaches to mental health.
Understanding attitudes towards mental health — and how they differ from culture to culture — gives you an advantage as a First Aider and ensures that you can offer support to your community in the best way possible.
Disparities and Inequities
In The Costs and Consequences of Disparities in Behavioral Health Care, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported, “Each year, people belonging to racial and ethnic minority groups experience worse behavioral health status and treatment outcomes, along with more difficulty accessing services, than their peers in other groups.” The Black community feels this disparity acutely. For example:
The legacy of slavery and racism, as well as the current realities of racial oppression and violence, have also impacted the ease of access to mental health care. And for some Black Americans, the added weight of stigma against seeking mental health care means many are less likely to reach out for help when they need it. Other factors like lack of health insurance, lack of childcare, difficulty taking time off work, and a general mistrust of medical doctors also impede some from getting the care they need. (A 2018 report by the National Conference of State Legislatures does a great job of highlighting inequities in mental health care by race, including the reasons why many cannot or do not utilize services available to them.)
How Mental Health First Aiders Can Help
For those who can and do seek care, it can be difficult to find a provider who demonstrates cultural competency. As a First Aider, you are well-positioned to help fill these gaps and provide people around you with the information and resources they may need:
Taking some time to address implicit biases and understand the current state of mental health for Black Americans ensures that you can #BeTheDifference for people around you and make mental health care much more accessible for those in need.
American Psychological Association. (2017). African Americans have limited access to mental and behavioral health care. https://www.apa.org/advocacy/civil-rights/diversity/african-american-health
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (2020, June 4). ADAA stands against racism. https://adaa.org/finding-help/blackcommunitymentalhealth
Armstrong, Victor. (2020, July 17). Perception is everything. The impact of racial bias in mental health & addictions [Video]. NatCon20. https://youtu.be/uwfwutr2dwg
Celestine, S. (2019, December 4). African Americans face unique mental health risks. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20191204/african-americans-face-unique-mental-health-risks
Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity. (2018). Implicit bias module series. Ohio State University. http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/implicit-bias-training/
National Council for Behavioral Health. (n.d.) Addressing health equity and racial justice. https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/center-for-consulting-training/addressing-health-equity-and-racial-justice/
National Council for Behavioral Health. (n.d.) Addressing Trauma, Racism, and Bias in Behavioral Health Service Delivery, part 1. https://thenationalcouncil-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/rec/WN_GPjr0pyKTDGDBiXk_5w9Ig?meetingId=uwjd7JOfAbnrNDNUpZKBfNS_e21W5pJwxZ-xvh4evco-_gHPX3TArk70RwCaJUQI.aJkEhhf02lGS9q1B&playId=RfXumje7oqyNs2ahjMaNT_hDisSNehXAk7zzoXk3Cm7iOzBq4gSOyj1rITzME_qZRvMXdbawKJ1R1nP8.OJcRMhJPQ6svJyiK&action=play&_x_zm_rtaid=0IsCFdRuTAuWrOKUzFDVYA.1600957351875.846bbc32d72df8181bdd7027fbded34a&_x_zm_rhtaid=686
National Council for Behavioral Health. (n.d.) Equity definitions. https://www.thenationalcouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/TI-ROC-Equity-Definitions-.pdf?daf=375ateTbd56
University of Michigan. (n.d.) Racism and anti-racism in America. Michigan Online. https://online.umich.edu/collections/racism-antiracism/
Wile, M., & Goodwin, K. (2018, February). The consequences of disparities in behavioral health Care. National Conference of State Legislatures. https://www.ncsl.org/Portals/1/Documents/Health/DisparitiesBH_32068.pdf