My family used to joke that only white people need therapy. Black people go to church instead, find remedies on their knees in prayer, sing their sorrows away. Meanwhile, white academics told me that African-Americans merely fabricated ungrounded stigma around psychiatric help. As absurd as these two viewpoints may sound, these myths actually point to a greater phenomenon.
As of 2012, 15% of the US American population without health insurance was African-American. Considering the role economic status plays in healthcare sheds light on the racial discrepancy with respect to treating mental illness. Many people with health insurance find that their companies don’t cover the cost of mental illness treatment, and those without any health insurance find themselves facing incredibly high prices to pay for medical care, or opting not to pursue treatment at all. These obstacles often lead Black folks in the states 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,” states NAMI’s fact sheet on African American Community Mental Health.
Even if able to pay for treatment, many Black folks encounter prejudices and biases from medical caregivers. Black people, especially Black men, are frequently misdiagnosed when it comes to mental illness. For example, most prominently in the 1960s, white doctors institutionalized Black men involved in civil rights protests (particularly in Detroit) on the grounds that the behaviors these men defended as political activism was really schizophrenic rage and volatility. Also, medical practitioners’ prescriptions sometimes reflect discriminatory and generally racial assumptions that Black people do not need as much medicine as white people. Studies conducted by the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health discovered that Black US Americans are 1.5 times as likely to be denied antidepressant treatment. No one wants tell you that the system is sick. No one wants to tell you that the healthcare system intentionally keeps historically marginalized groups like queer folks, and Black folks, and people who happen to find themselves at the intersection of queerness and Blackness sick.
This is not a feel good article, but it NEEDS to be said. This is a huge problem, and part of the reason that I will never shame anyone for having self-diagnosed.
I keep thinking oh man, I’m so immature. How am I allowed to be an adult.
Then I spend time with teenagers.
And it’s like, wow, okay, yeah. I am an adult. I am so adult. Look at me adulting all over the place.