Parts one thru three of this series explored the myths, stigmas and to some extent, symptoms associated with the most commonly known mental illness, bi-polar disorder/manic depression. Now, we will explore some of the causal factors involved. Because many African-Americans are less likely to receive diagnoses and treatments for their mental illnesses than Caucasian-Americans,
Surprisingly however, many of those insured who do receive medications often abandon treatment. Some studies suggest that African-Americans metabolize medications more slowly than Caucasian-Americans, yet they often receive higher doses of psychiatric medications, which may result in increased side effects and decreased medication compliance. In addition, Somatization – the manifestation of physical illnesses related to mental health - occurs at a rate of 15% among African Americans, as compared to only 9% among Caucasian-Americans.
Other contributing factors include:
- Exposure to violence increases the risk of developing a mental illness; over 25% of African- American children exposed to violence meet criteria for post-traumatic-stress disorder.
- Children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illnesses. African-American children comprise 45% of the public foster care population.
- African-Americans comprise 40% of the homeless population and only 12% of the U.S. population. People experiencing homelessness are at a greater risk of developing a mental illness.
- Prison inmates are at a high risk of developing a mental illness- half of America’s inmates are African-American.
~~ Written by Jay Arrington
Maryland Daily Examiner