The Facts about African Americans and Mental Illness

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    According to a Fact Sheet from the National Alliance on Mental Illness:

    • Culture biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevent many African Americans from accessing care due to prior experiences with historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and a lack of cultural understanding; only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the United States are African American.

    • African Americans tend to rely on family, religious and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though this may at times be necessary. The health care providers they seek may not be aware of this important aspect of person life.

    • Mental illness is frequently stigmatized and misunderstood in the African American community. African Americans are much more likely to seek help though their primary care doctors as opposed to accessing specialty care.

    • African Americans are often at a socioeconomic disadvantage in terms of accessing both medical and mental health care: in 2006, one-third of working adult African Americans were uninsured in the preceding year.

    • Across a recent 15-year span, suicide rates increased 233 percent among African Americans aged 10-14 compared to 120 percent among Caucasian Americans in the same age group across the same span of time.

    • Social circumstances often serve as an indicator for the likelihood of developing a mental illness. African Americans are disproportionately more likely to experience social circumstances that increase their chances of developing a mental illness.

    • African Americans comprise 40 percent of the homeless population and only 12 percent of the U.S. population. People experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of developing a mental illness.

    • Nearly half of all prisoners in the United States are African American. Prison inmates are at a higher risk of developing a mental illness.

    • Children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illnesses. African American children comprise 45 percent of the public foster care population.

    • Exposure to violence increases the risk of developing a mental illness; over 25 percent of African American children exposed to violence meet criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder.

    For more information and resources visit http://www.nami.org

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