August 3rd, 2010

Mental Health Amongst Blacks: What We Don’t Know

sad black woman

While mental health is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about summer, the month of July was National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.

In the midst of backyard barbecues, cocktails by the pool, 4th of July firework celebrations and baseball games, many around you suffer in silence.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older are living with serious mental illness. Among adults, the prevalence of serious mental illness is highest in the 18 to 25 age group, yet this age group is also the least likely to receive services or counseling. In 2008, 6.0 percent of African Americans ages 18-25 had serious mental illness in the past year. Overall, only 58.7 percent of Americans with serious mental illness received care within the past 12 months and the percentage of African Americans receiving services is only 44.8 percent.

Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feeling, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.  These illnesses do not discriminate, affecting persons of any age, race, religion, or income.

Mental illnesses are treatable. Most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness can experience relief from their symptoms by actively participating in an individual treatment plan. The treatment for each mental disorder varies, for some counseling and therapy is enough, but with others medication is needed with the counseling, then with the more severe psychological disorders either short term or long term hospitalization is sometimes necessary because the patient is a danger to self or others.

Mental illnesses are frequently stigmatized and misunderstood in the African American community. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), working in collaboration with the Ad Council launched a national public service advertising campaign designed to raise awareness of mental health problems among young adults in the African American community.

The campaign aims to promote acceptance of mental health problems within the African American community by encouraging, educating and inspiring young adults to step up and talk openly about mental health problems. The television, radio, print and Web ads feature real personal stories of African Americans, like Susan L. Taylor the founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement and Editor in Chief Emeritus of Essence Magazine.

The PSAs direct audiences to visit a new website,, where they can learn more about mental health problems and how to get involved.


NAMI – National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, “About Mental Illness”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2009). Results from the 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings (Office of Applied Studies, NSDUH Series H-36, HHS Publication No. SMA 09-4434). Rockville, MD.

About the Author

Scherly Leon



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  1. Thanks for this informative article. I have Bipolar and it is NO fun, well except when I had a serious manic attack, doing things I wouldn't normally do. I thank God that I am now stabilized on my meds, . It took me over 20 years to accept my mental illness.

  2. This article brought awareness. Sometimes I joke about African Americans having mental problem such as the ones listed in this article, but now I will put all jokes aside cause this is something serious and so many of my people suffer from this disorder and I had no clue so many African Americans battle this disorder…. May you be blessed Makeda!

  3. Mental healthy is very important thing.

  4. Thanks for sharing. i really appreciate it that you shared with us such informative post

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  8. Mental illnesses are frequently stigmatized and misunderstood in the African American community. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA),

  9. From time to time we could actually expect something from within as we consider all those things we wish to know about.

  10. According to substance pharmacy personal statements health of people is much necessary then with the more severe psychological disorders. So we must care this by heart.

  11. Black people became so conscious about their color. This problem has changed their mental thinking about ignoring by the world. We should only heal this by consoling them.

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