Mental Health Stigma in the Black community
Updated: Jan 26
In lieu of black history month and my current studies, I have been astounded about the differences in diagnosis between black people and our white counterparts.
During my lecture titled: Culture and Global mental health, I learned that Trinidadians living in the uk are 5-12 times more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia compared to our white counterparts.
Also, Black adults have the lowest treatment rate of any ethnic group.
However, the rate of diagnosis of Trinidadians living in Trinidad was the same as white people living in the UK!! That brought several questions to my mind. What is it about living in the UK that increases the rate of Afro-Caribbean people being diagnosed with mental health? Surely, the environment must play a role.
In the UK, there a stigma attached to mental health especially in the Black community. I must admit, in my community, we (black women specifically) like to uphold the idea that we are the embodiment of a strong black woman that can overcome any obstacle in our way. By ourselves.
That is great however, being strong doesn’t mean we are weak if we ask for help. Receiving help for a mental illness does not make you weak!
Discussing mental health is still a taboo topic in my opinion. I’ve witness that within the black community, we are more likely to talk to our pastor, fellow church members and a family friend about issues that are bothering us. It is important to have a support system. Although talking therapy i.e. group therapy is also effective in treating disorders such as anxiety.
Personally, I have been advised to just pray about my concerns. As if prayer alone can make a mental illness disappear. I understand that many religious people believe in miracles but how can you alter chemical imbalances? We are lucky that we live in a country that has free access to healthcare so we should utilize it effectively.
Moreover, the older generation in ethnic minority communities may not grasp the severity of mental illness (as it was not discussed nearly as frequently, if at all, as it is now).
Some may still believe in the notion that if you are diagnosed with a mental illness, “you are crazy”. This is not a politically correct thing to say and its underlying notion makes me think that they believe that developing a mental illness is a conscious choice which is certainly not the case.
I strongly believe that mental health needs to be discussed in our community to ensure people are more knowledgeable about the different mental illnesses, diagnosis, symptoms and the most suitable treatment available.
Fear combined with being viewed as being mentally ill can stop people receiving the help they may need. Due to institutional racism and cases such as Stephen Lawrence and the young black man that died in a police station are factors that play a role in people of color deciding not to get the help they may need.
Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities are more likely to be diagnosed and admitted to hospital than our white counterparts hence it is imperative that we have access to mental health services and use so wisely.
I am making it my mission to encourage ethnic minorities to be more open to simply talking about our mental wellbeing. I am on my path to becoming a counsellor as I believe if more people of color (poc) see therapists that look like them, perhaps more poc may find counselling more appealing.
There are millions of people across the globe that are diagnosed with mental illnesses. Many people are currently receiving help and are in remission.
You are not alone.
Someone else is going through similar things to you.
You are strong and you will get through this.
Below are a list of mental health charities that you can turn to if you need to talk to someone.
Talking is the first step on the road to recovery.
You’ve got this.
Thanks for reading.
Mental Health Foundation 020 7803 1101 Improving the lives of those with mental health problems or learning difficulties.
Together 020 7780 7300 Supports people through mental health services.
The Centre for Mental Health 020 7827 8300 Working to improve the quality of life for people with mental health problems.
BACP Find a Therapist Directory 01455 883300 Through the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP) you can find out more about counselling services in your area.
PANDAS Foundation 0843 28 98 401 (every day from 9am-8pm) PANDAS Foundation vision is to support every individual with pre (antenatal), postnatal depression or postnatal psychosis in England, Wales and Scotland. We campaign to raise awareness and remove the stigma. We provide our PANDAS Help Line, Support Groups offer online advice to all and much more.
Citizens Advice Gives free confidential information and advice to help people sort out their money, legal, consumer and other problems. Support for children and young people
Young Minds 020 7336 8445 Provides information and advice for anyone with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person.
Childline 0800 1111 Free, national helpline for children and young people in trouble or danger.
Nightline Listening, support and information service run by students for students. Other places you could go for support
Age Concern 0800 009966 Infoline on issues relating to older people.
Lesbian and Gay Switchboard 020 7837 7324 Provides information, support and referral services.
Refugee Council 020 7346 6700 The UK’s largest organisation working with refugees and asylum seekers.
Relate 0300 100 1234 Offers advice, relationship counselling, sex therapy, workshops, mediation, consultations and support.
Education Support Partnership 08000 562 561 A 24/7 telephone support line which gives teachers access to professional coaches and counsellors 365 days a year. The network also campaigns for change within schools and education policy in order to improve the wellbeing, mental and physical health of teachers.
Anxiety UK 08444 775 774 Works to relieve and support those living with anxiety disorders by providing information, support and understanding via an extensive range of services, including 1:1 therapy.