Today we are going to explore the topic of African Americans’ mental health and challenge that lie that African American’s as a group don’t care about mental health and don’t get help.
Stigma impacts all people, and all people, no matter their race who have to focus on obtaining the basics in life (food/clothing), are less focused on mental health than those who do not have this issue. Poverty is an important indicator of how receptive a person will be to getting or not getting help. A person’s poverty level affects mental health status. African Americans living below the poverty level, as compared to those over twice the poverty level, are three times more likely to report psychological distress. https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=24
Unfortunately, even in 2000, far too many African Americans in disproportionate numbers are still experiencing financial instability. Financial instability or poverty has the most measurable effect on the rates of mental illness. It’s easy to see how a person may become depressed when they are worried about getting and keeping a job. Basic needs must be meet first before we can feel safe enough to move onto other needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy, lower needs must be satisfied before higher-order needs can influence behavior.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in Psychological Review.[2Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs has often been represented in a hierarchical pyramid with five levels.
The needs outlined by Maslow include
1) Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts, etc.;
2) Safety/security: out of danger;
3) Belongingness and Love: affiliate with others, be accepted; and
4) Esteem: to achieve, be competent, gain approval, and recognition.
5) Cognitive: to know, to understand, and explore;
6) Aesthetic: symmetry, order, and beauty;
7) Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one’s potential; and
8) Self-transcendence: to connect to something beyond the ego or to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.
In other words, if I am looking for a place to stay or getting food, I may not be as focused on meeting with a therapist even though I may need to. So it’s not that African Americans don’t care about mental health, it’s just some of us are focused on survival.
African Americans, because of a long history of economic oppression African Americans are significantly overrepresented in the most vulnerable segments of the population (homeless, foster care, criminal justice, lower-income). But despite all of the negative factors, African Americans still move forward, achieve, and our protective factors have sustained us.
Protective factors are characteristics associated with a lower likelihood of adverse outcomes or that reduce a risk factor’s impact. Protective factors may be seen as positive countering events and include things like: Religion/Spirituality, Sense of Racial Pride, Resourcefulness, Family Unity/Kinship Bond, and community involvement.
So despite people who highlight things African Americans don’t do, let us continue to highlight the progress that has been made despite our challenges and embrace those protective facts that have helped us.