Mental Health in the African American Community Introduction African Americans, can also be referred as the Afro Americans or the Black Americans, are the residents and citizen of the Unites States who have their roots linked to at least the partial ancestry of the native population of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are also the direct descendants of enslaved Africans that were within the boundaries of the present day United States. Most of the African Americas are the descendants from West Africa, while others may also the immigrant from various regions of the west, including, Africa, Caribbean, South American or Central American Nations.
In the United States, African Americans are considered the single biggest racial minority. The history of African American starts back from the 16th Century, when a number of African slaves rose against Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon, a Spanish explorer, and developed to the present day, where Barack Obama has been elected as the president of the United States. Between all these years, there were a number of issue and problems that this particular community has faced, including slavery, racial discrimination, reconstruction, participation in the military conflicts of America, development of the Afro-American community and the Civil Right Movement.
Racial discrimination is one of the most sensitive issues, considered in the present day American society (Belgrave, Allison, 2009, pp. 121-127). A number of agencies and programs are operational ensuring the protection of the rights of minorities. However, there are some schools of thought that claim the suppression of their rights in the present day society, on the basis of racial discrimination. We will consider the current policies and trends that are prevalent in the country for the protection and prevention of such issues and identify solutions and action plans for the rehabilitation of prevalent problems.
African American Mental Health: Current Facts and Trends According to a report presented by National Alliance on Mental Illness, considering the mental health of the African American communities, there are certain issues with the proper diagnosis of their mental ailments. For example, Schizophrenia has been over diagnosed in the African American communities. These biases in this diagnosis lead to miscalculation of facts and discrepancies in statistical data. Cultural influences and perceived biases against medial health care professionals prevent the African Americans for accessing mental care (Hill, Mann, Fitzgerald, 2011, pp. 1-49). Previous experiences like, misdiagnosis, cultural disparities and inadequate treatment procedures limit their participation in the process. Only 2% psychologist, 2% psychiatrists and 4% social workers in America are African Americans. Some studies indicate that African Americans are more comfortable in discussing their issue with family, social and religious communities for emotional support, rather than consulting a healthcare professional (Whitaker, 2000, pp. 2-17). Because of limited involvement with healthcare professionals, the mental illness significantly misunderstood and stigmatized in their communities. They are more likely to seek help from their local primary care doctors and avid specialty care. In assessing medical and metal care, African Americans are at a socioeconomic disadvantage. According to a research survey one third of the African American workers did not have medical insurance, in 2005.
Metal ailments vary across cultures; therefore, it is important to understand the cultural influences in the mental conditions of a person, by the mental healthcare associations. Considering the statistics of African Americans in relation to the Caucasian Americans, there has been an increase on 233% in the rate of suicide, of the age bracket 10 to 14 years, compared to the Caucasian Americans, which in 120% during the last 15 years. Physical illnesses that results from mental disorders occurs at a rate of 15% in African Americans, compared to 9% in Caucasian Americans.
Some studies indicate that African American immune system responds slowly in comparison to Caucasian Americans, and for that they receive higher doses of psychiatric medications. This results in increased total side effects and decreased medication impacts (Neighbors, Jackson, 1996, pp. 47-51). Mental ailments and disorder can also occur form social circumstances. African Americans are more likely to face social issues like, social discrimination and inequality on the basis of racial parities, this can also leads to mental illnesses.
African American comprise of 12% of the total population of the United States, and 40% of the entire homeless population. Homelessness can also lead to mental illnesses. There are a number of reasons that lead to medical ailments these include imprisonment, violence, social abuses and isolation. Around 50% of the American prisons are composed of African American criminals, imprisonment can leads to mental illnesses. Children in foster care can suffer serious mental disorders on the basis of perceived isolation and separation from their parents.
More than 45% of the public, foster care in the United States consists of African American children. Over 25% of the African American children are subjected to violent abuses and meet the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorders (Logan, Gibson, 2007, pp. 87-92). Current Policies Individuals with Disabilities Education Act The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are a federal law of the United States which givens the public agencies and states and provide early involvement, special education and various other related services to children with disabilities.
The act caters the educational needs of children from birth till they reach maturity. IDEA only applies to those states that accept federal funding for their local educational agencies, while those states that do not accept such funding are not subjected to the spending clause of IDEA. Certain clauses of the Act highlight the importance of educating children disregarding their cast, creed, color, race and ethnic orientation. The Act specifically focuses to meet the special educational needs of children with disabilities, form preschool to the age of 21.
The Act reserves the rights of children and encourages them for preparation for future studies, employment and independent living. We can relates the stipulations of IDEA for the mental disabilities in African American children, and the acts help to ensure to the protection of their rights and educational involvement to ensure cognitive development (Logan, Gibson, 2007,Press, pp. 87-92). American with Disabilities Act American with Disabilities Act or the ADA was enacted by the congress in 1990. The Act includes a provision that limits social and psychological discrimination of disabled people in the society.
The Act similar protection as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which discourage the racial, religious and gender discrimination illegal, in the eyes of the law. Disability is defined by law as the physical or mental mutilation which limits an individual to lead a normal life. The determination of disability varies from case to case. The association of ADA with the Civil Rights Act ensures the protection of the rights of minorities in relation to their mental disabilities. The Act includes provisions for the rehabilitation of mental ailments of minority, including African Americans, the largest minority in the United States.
ADA is also subjected to conduct medical and scientific research to identify healthcare treatment and foster health concerns of mentally disabled Americans. Fair Housing Amendments Act The Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988 provides accommodation for physically disabled or mentally unsound Americans, who are looking a secure place to survive. The Act ensures the rights of those citizens who are unable to lead a normal life because of their temporary or permanent impairment. The Act ensures the protection of citizen’s right disregarding their cast, color, and race.
Through providing proper accommodation for the disabled American, the act ensures their security, health and possibilities of rehabilitation. There are a number of issues related to mentally disabled African Americans, they involve in incidents which jeopardize their lives, the Act will provide measures for their rehab and safety. Analysis of Current Policies and Action Plans Verses Needed Policies and Action Plans Analysis of Current Policies and Action Plans These policies by the government were established keeping in view the rehabilitation of American citizens.
All these policies ensure the protection of the rights of minorities and carry provisions which for their mental health related issues . They are similar for all and even for African American Communities, but a number of studies suggest that, African Americans have a high rate of mental ailments in comparison with Caucuses American. The reasons are not polices, but their inherent believes about the racial discrimination. We will now consider and analyze the prevalent policies and identify actual causes which restrict the participation of
African Americans in mental health treatments (Loue, & Sajatovic, 2008, pp. 101-109). African Americans share the same mental health issues as the rest of the population, with arguably even greater stressors due to racism, prejudice, and economic disparities (Loue, Sajatovic, 2008). The question arises as, why African Americans shy away from psychotherapy as a potential solution to challenges such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, marriage problems, and parenting issues. Some of the reasons are as follows. African Americans continue to hold stigmatizing beliefs about mental illness.
For example, a qualitative study found that among Blacks who were already mental health consumers felt that mild depression or anxiety would be considered “crazy” in their social circles. African Americans may be resistant to seek treatment because they fear it may reflect badly on their families. Those who suffered greatly from mental disorders, many held negative attitudes about people who obtain mental health care. Many African Americans with mental disorders are unaware that they have a diagnosable illness at all, and are even less aware that effective psychological treatments exist for their specific problem.
Because of the proscribed surrounding open discussion about mental illness, they have little knowledge of mental health problems and their treatments (Ivey, 2007, pp. 13-21). Needed Policies and Action Plans for Improvement We have evaluated the reasons for limited participation and current policies for the mental health of American citizens. These policies are similar for all the residents of the country, which raise certain problems with African American minorities. We have observed that most of the psychiatrists and psychologist are Caucasian Americans, which hinders the participation of African Americans in their mental health treatment.
Government should amend certain clauses in these policies, which insure that only African American psychiatrist will cater African American Patients. This will require proper educational settings, opportunities, and also adopting measures which persuade the minorities to participate and practice in mental health education. Apart from perceived racial discrimination there are a number of other factors which limits such participation like, cost of such treatments. The financial burden of mental health treatment is barrier that affects everyone, but disproportionally affects African Americans due to lower incomes and reduced employment opportunities. Most people concerned about cost are more likely to be uninsured; their incomes are not low enough to qualify for publicly provided services but not high enough to afford a private insurance plan. There are many practical approaches that can reduce mental health disparity. Following are some of the actions plans to increase treatment participation within the African American community. Providing Affordable Treatment
The cost of treatment may be prohibitive for many, especially among those without insurance coverage. Many low-income individuals can find help in the community health system, but such systems may suffer from a lack of clinicians able to treat complex and less common conditions. It can be especially difficult to find care for those who lack any sort of insurance, have an unstable living situation, or who must contend with the inability to make appointments due to overcrowding. Individual practices and treatment centers can help by publicizing effective, low cost treatment options.
It is important to be aware that the cost of treatment is a larger problem that involves many aspects of our society, including the politics of health care and social inequalities. Increasing awareness Education about mental disorders and the treatment process is a critical to reducing barriers to treatment among the African American community. Suggestions for overcoming this barrier include public education campaigns, educational presentations at community venues, and open information sessions at local mental health clinics.
In fact, many Black churches are taking the treatment to where the people are, and hiring licensed therapists to work with their flock. Prioritizing Mental Health Treatment Treatment has the potential to conflict with many daily activities or commitments for busy people. In the current economy, many take second and third jobs to make ends meet. Whether the individual feels treatment is a necessary priority despite prior engagements, transportation, or scheduling issues is an important, positive step.
Moreover, incorporating the family is another crucial measure in overcoming barriers to treatment. By gaining familial support, the client may gain peace of mind as well as lose the fear of being outcast or stigmatized. In addition, with the family’s acceptance, making time for treatment becomes easier and priorities may be put into perspective. Utilizing the family to emphasize the importance of good mental health creates more allies to emphasize the relationship between improved functioning and greater success at home and work (Bailey, 2002, pp. 147-158).
Conclusion Making psychotherapy less intimidating may be one of the most important ways of improving this concern. Careful use of language can help to reduce some discomfort surrounding mental health care. For example, African Americans are more comfortable with the term “counseling” over “psychotherapy”, this should be considered in conversational exchanges and advertising. Another practical way to reduce fears is to offer free assessments and phone consultations, which will help familiarize potential patients with the clinic, clinician, and treatment.
Clinicians might use initial contacts to address fears of being involuntarily hospitalized by explaining the difference between typical mental health challenges and “being crazy”, including the role of self-efficacy and insights. It is also the duty of a therapist to consider mental health concern of African Americans. To completely eliminate mental health disparities, clinicians must be willing to undertake an honest self-examination of their own conscious and unconscious attitudes about race, including preconceived notions about who would be a good client.
By increasing the cultural competence and social awareness of all clinicians, the mental health system can begin to shed its bias against ethnic minorities. This would result in greater understanding and empathy for the patient’s experience, improved treatment outcomes, and more African Americans willing to take a chance with mental health care. Reference Bailey. (2002), “African American alternative medicine: using alternative medicine to prevent and control chronic diseases”, Greenwood Publishing Group, pp. 147-158. Belgrave, & Allison. (2009), “African American Psychology: From Africa to America”, SAGE, pp. 121-127.
Hill, Mann, & Fitzgerald (2011), “African American Children and Mental Health”, Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, pp. 41-49. Ivey. (2007), “Attitudes toward suicide and mental illness in African American churches”, ProQuest, pp. 13-21. Logan, & Gibson. (2007), “Mental Health Care in the African-American Community”, Haworth Press, pp. 87-92. Loue, & Sajatovic. (2008), “Determinants of Minority Mental Health and Wellness”, Springer, pp. 101-109. Neighbors & Jackson. (1996), “Mental health in Black America”, Sage Publications, pp. 47-51. Whitaker. (2000), “The Mental Health Crises in Black American”, EBONY, Johnson Publishing Company, pp. 12-17.