Black mental health: A road map to improvement

Miles Richardson | Staff Writer

Black mental health needs to be a top priority for the Biden Administration.

African Americans have historically had less access to affordable health care. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, “in 2017, 55.5 percent of blacks compared to 75.4 percent of whites used private health care insurance.”

The reason for this has gone largely unnoticed. This disparity exists because there is a sizable portion of the Black community that lives in mental health deserts. This dynamic has caused a great deal of turmoil within these communities. According to Mental Health America, “Black and African American people living below poverty are twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those living over 2x the poverty level. Socioeconomic status, in turn, is linked to mental health: People who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated, or have substance use problems are at higher risk for poor mental health.”

The current wave of mental health decline, combined with mental health deserts within African American communities, will likely lead to a significant rise in arrest rates, substance abuse and suicide attempts.

The effects of this mental health crisis will only be further exaggerated within inner cities. If HBCU students are struggling this much with mental health (see Cover Story), how do you think things will be for the youths and adults who live in communities where wealth and resources are more scarce?

This problem can be solved by actively working to create more diversity in health care professionals through employing policy to encourage future graduates to enter mental health. There is a dire need for more African American mental health care professionals who are from these communities. Having access to culturally educated medical professionals will likely create a more comfortable environment for Black youths and adults to seek help with their mental health battles, combatting the apprehension the stigma around mental health problems generally creates.

This can be achieved by creating relationships between HBCUs and research centers to further professional development, combined with the lessening of medical school debt.

The heroic youths who decide to combat this issue should have every opportunity to do so.

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