The visiting adults would fawn over the person and say “poor thang” and “it’s a shame” and just as quickly upon leaving, would make a joke about “the whole family being crazy” and how surprised they are the entire family isn’t locked-up. Laughed at, hidden, disregarded, stigmatized and more important, misunderstood, that pretty much sums up the attitude towards mental illness within the African-American community then and now. In addition to the stigma associated with mental illness, cultural biases against mental health professionals and health care professionals in general prevented many African- Americans from accessing care because of prior experiences with historical misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment and a lack of cultural understanding. Moreover, only 2 percent of psychiatrists, 2 percent of psychologists and 4 percent of social workers in the United States are African-American. As a consequence, today, just as in the 60’s, African Americans tend to rely on family, religious and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though this may at times be necessary.
~~ Written by Jay Arrington
Maryland Daily Examiner