Why Black History Month Should NOT be Celebrated Without Talking Mental Health

Throughout Black History Month and beyond, the role African Americans have played and continue to play in history was recognized and honored. The month has always been a chance to celebrate the rich cultural traditions and accomplishments of the Black community, while also raising awareness about ongoing disparities deeply rooted in American history.  

It is always a disservice to highlight Black History Month without also shedding light on the mental health crisis that continues to disproportionately impact minority communities, especially African Americans. The statistics are sobering. 

  • African Americans are 20% more likely to have serious psychological distress than Caucasians
  • African Americans receive mental health treatment at 50% the rate of Caucasians
  • In 2015, African American youth ages 5-12 were approximately twice as likely to die by suicide than their White counterparts 

 There are several factors fueling these numbers and several paths to turning the data around.  

 Here are a few ideas:  

 Integrate Behavioral Health in Primary Care 

 evolvedMD is working to make mental health treatment more affordable and more accessible, by spearheading the integration of behavioral health services in modern primary care. Research shows that Black/African Americans are more likely to seek help in emergency rooms or primary care rather than from mental health specialists. The psychiatric collaborative care model embeds mental health therapists within a team, led by a patient’s primary care physician. In addition to the behavioral health manager, primary care physician, and psychiatric consultant, evolvedMD has enhanced this model to form a well-balanced wraparound approach that includes care coordinators and clinical managers. This allows the patient to receive services from the comfort of their primary care office, all without judgment or discrimination.  

 Bring Affordable Mental Health Resources into Black Communities 

 Recent data from insurance company Sidecar Health ranks Arizona 15th in the nation when it comes to how much residents pay to visit a family therapist, with an average cash price of $311-$316. At a time when nearly 20% of African Americans live below the poverty line, leveraging free or low-cost programs is a starting point to bridging the mental health access gap for minority communities.  

 Invest In + Incentivize Black Mental Health Professionals 

Only 5% of America’s psychology workforce are Black/African American. Seeing a therapist who understands your experiences comes with a host of benefits, including feeling more connected, more comfortable opening up, and more likely to follow treatment plans. 

If we promote opportunities for Black professionals to pursue careers in mental health, enhance the visibility of the diverse workforce, ensure fair and equitable pay, offer scholarships for graduate training and more, you will see a steady increase in Black therapists who are ready to serve the unmet needs of their communities. 

 Honor and Celebrate those Who Paved the Way 

 African Americans’ contributions to the field of mental health have long been overlooked. Take the time to learn about and celebrate trailblazers like Mamie Phipps Clark, Ph.D.; Kenneth Bancroft Clark, Ph.D.; Dr. Paul Cornely, Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Joseph L. White, Ph.D., and many more who spent their lives working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community, while also increasing access to trustworthy, affordable care. 

 Honor Yourself or Your Community by Being Part of the Solution 

If you are experiencing or believe you are experiencing any mental health stressors, we encourage you to make yourself a priority by visiting any of our partner primary care offices to receive upfront and ongoing behavioral health services. If you are a behavioral health professional and would like to join us in providing quality, affordable service, please visit www.evolvedmd.com to learn more. 

Dr. Christina Abby is Director of Training & Curriculum, evolvedMD.  

About evolvedMD 

Launched in 2017, evolvedMD is leading the integration of behavioral health services in modern primary care. Uniquely upfront and ongoing, our distinctive model places behavioral health specialists on site within a practice. evolvedMD offers an economically viable and better way to integrate behavioral health that ultimately drives improved patient outcomes. 


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