Mental Health America, founded in 1909 is reportedly “the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness.
For the third year in a row, MHA has released its annual State of Mental Health Report which ranks all 50 states and the District of Columbia based and the results were no less than staggering, for the nation as a whole and in particular for people of African descent.
Based on the report, it is clear that African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to a variety of historical adversities which include social, economic and racial stigmas coupled with a lack of access to care. Here were some of the findings.
- Even though health care reform has reduced the rates of uninsured adults with mental health conditions—19 percent remain uninsured in states that did not expand Medicaid, 13 percent remain uninsured in states that did expand Medicaid. Yet,
- Over 40 million Americans are dealing with a mental health concern—more than the populations of New York and Florida combined.
- Youth mental health problems are on the rise, and 6 out of 10 young people with major depression do not receive ANY mental health treatment.
Regarding the Black and African American communities nationwide:
- Of the 132% of the U.S. population (roughly 45 million people) that identify themselves as Black or African American, 16% had a diagnosable mental illness in the past year (that is over 6.8 million people – more than the populations of Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia combined!)
- Adult Black/African Americans living below poverty are three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty.
In 2015 the Thrive initiative was launched by First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray as a public health initiative to begin to change the way people think about mental health –to erase the stigma often attached to it. Since, dozens of organizations have partnered with Thrive in order to impact smaller communities, like Harlem in dealing with the mental health epidemic.
The Community Coalition for Mental Health, a partnership between Columbia University Medical Center and Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, is a diverse group of community, faith and health professionals focused on improving access to mental health care for under-resourced communities. This Saturday, October 21st, CCMH will present “Community Conversations: Overcoming Stress and Achieving Wellness”, featuring a number of guest speakers including First Lady of New York City, Chirlane McCray and Dr. Gary Belkin, NYC Mental Health Commissioner.
Bottom line, mental health problems are preventable and definitely manageable if identified early enough. Let’s eliminate the stigma. The best way to get rid of a cancer is to show it the light. Pull off the covers and expose it for what it is. We as a community can and will conquer this problem and the reality is, we are making progress. Be a part of the solution!