15 Mental Health Myths in Black Community

Mental health awareness is crucial in every community, including the Black community, where there are often unique challenges and stigmas surrounding mental health. As a community, we must recognize and address these myths to foster a culture of understanding and support for mental health issues. By recognizing these misconceptions and having open dialogue, individuals in our community can feel more empowered and not seek shame when seeking help or accessing resources when needed. Additionally, acknowledging the intersectionality of race and mental health is vital in developing effective strategies for promoting well-being and resilience.

Here are 15 myths commonly found within the Black community:

  1. “Black people don’t get depressed.” Depression can affect anyone regardless of race or ethnicity. However, cultural factors and systemic issues may affect how depression is expressed and perceived within the Black community.
  2. “Therapy is only for white people.” Therapy can be beneficial for anyone, regardless of race. However, within our community, there is a misconception that seeking therapy equates weakness and goes against the idea of being strong and resilient, which are often emphasized in the Black community.
  3. “Praying can cure mental illness.” While spirituality and faith can be sources of strength and support, they are not substitutes for professional mental health treatment. Mental illnesses often require a combination of therapy, medication, and other interventions.
  4. “Black people don’t experience anxiety.” Anxiety disorders are prevalent across all racial and ethnic groups, including the Black community. However, there may be cultural barriers to acknowledging and seeking help for anxiety.
  5. “Talking about mental health issues is taboo. So we don’t discuss it.” There is stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community, leading to reluctance to discuss these issues openly. However, breaking the silence is essential for promoting awareness and seeking support.
  6. “Strong Black women don’t need help.” The stereotype of the strong Black woman can discourage women from seeking help for their mental health issues out of fear of appearing weak or vulnerable.
  7. “Black men don’t seek help for mental health problems.” Similar to the strong Black woman stereotype, there may be pressure on Black men to suppress their emotions and deal with their problems independently, which can deter them from seeking help.
  8. “Mental illness is a sign of personal weakness.” Mental illnesses are medical conditions that can affect anyone, regardless of their strength or character. It’s important to recognize that seeking help for mental health issues is a sign of courage, not weakness.
  9. “Talking to a therapist means you’re crazy.” This myth stigmatizes therapy and discourages people from seeking help when they need it. In reality, therapy is a valuable tool for improving mental health and well-being.
  10. “Children don’t experience mental health problems.” Children and adolescents can and do experience mental health issues, especially when sourced from racial microaggressions in the classroom or from classmates. Ignoring or dismissing their struggles can have long-term consequences for their well-being.
  11. “Mental health treatment is too expensive.” While accessing mental health care can be challenging due to financial barriers and systemic issues, there are often resources available, including low-cost or sliding-scale therapy options and community mental health centers.
  12. “Taking medication for mental illness is a sign of weakness.” Medication can be an effective treatment for many mental health conditions, just like medication is used to treat physical illnesses. It’s not a sign of weakness to seek medical help in conjunction with therapy for your mental health.
  13. “You can just ‘snap out of it’.” Mental illnesses are not a choice, and individuals cannot simply “snap out of” conditions like depression or anxiety. Recovery often requires professional treatment and support.
  14. “Mental health problems are just a phase.” While some mental health issues may improve over time, others may require ongoing management and treatment. It’s essential to take mental health concerns seriously and seek appropriate help.
  15. “Seeking help for mental health issues will harm your reputation.” There may be fears of judgment or discrimination within the Black community regarding mental health treatment. However, Elevate Black Health suggests prioritizing your well-being is more important than any potential stigma.

Myths about mental health in the Black community stem from a complex interplay of historical trauma, cultural stigma, limited access to resources, underrepresentation in mental health discourse, medical mistrust, and intersectional stigma. These factors contribute to misconceptions and barriers to seeking help for mental health issues. Addressing these myths requires a comprehensive approach that includes acknowledging historical and cultural factors, promoting access to culturally competent care, and advocating for policies that prioritize equity and inclusion in mental healthcare.

For more reading:

  1. National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) – African American Mental Health: https://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/African-American-Mental-Health
  2. Black Mental Health Alliance: https://blackmentalhealth.com/
  3. Therapy for Black Girls: https://therapyforblackgirls.com/
  4. Black Mental Wellness: https://www.blackmentalwellness.com/
  5. Mental Health America – Black and African American Communities: https://www.mhanational.org/issues/black-and-african-american-communities-and-mental-health

About the author

Stephen Earley Jordan II

Stephen Earley Jordan is the lead writer, editor and founder of Elevate Black Health. He has 25+ years in the public health and pharmaceutical marketing industry. He has worked on various public health campaigns for various organizations, including New York City Department of Health. Campaigns include: smoking cessation, healthy children, trans fat, HIV/AIDS, Flu Vaccines, Safe homes, and more. Jordan has worked with multicultural divisions to ensure all literature was translated into six additional languages for the specific targeted demographics. Jordan has also spent time in the pharmaceutical marketing industry, and worked on various marketing campaigns for oncology, rheumatoid arthritis, probiotics, medical devices, facial fillers, thyroid- and dry-eye diseases, and numerous rare diseases. He has assisted in the production of print and digital pieces alike.

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