I’ve been meaning to write a post about mental illness, specifically in the black community, for a while now. Recently, everyone was up in arms about a video of the beautiful, one-time actress Maia Campbell behaving irrationally, scantily dressed and cursing like a sailor while be “interviewed” but some random man and the entire tragic incident was caught on camera. Everyone kept saying it was because she was strung out, other people thought the video was doctored. I could see what Maia was going through was way beyond just being on drugs, it was clear that there was more going on than simple drug abuse.

It’s amazes me how many of us, know someone who’s affected my mental illness but it’s just been written off as “she’s a little crazy” or “he’s always been a little off” or “that’s just the way she is”. Why is it that we refuse to accept that our loved ones and friends have mental health issues? I guess it’s easy to ignore and just hope and pray that it’s going to get better, the person will go back to being “normal” one day. But the truth is, that’s just not going to happen without being evaluated and put on medication.

We rather act like it doesn’t exist and give every excuse possible. We blame it on alcohol or drugs or just say that the person’s a little different, odd, strange, eclectic, unstable, anything to avoid speaking the words mentally ill. Being mentally ill has been taboo for so long. It’s always been the elephants in the room that no one wants to talk about or even acknowledge. The sad thing is that our failure to acknowledge our loved ones and friends has something mentally wrong, just continues their path to destruction, whether they are a threat to themselves or others.

It’s one thing if the illness has been confronted but the person refuses to seek help or accept treatment, but when we just let it go and act like nothing’s wrong that’s where the problem lies. We have to take a more proactive stand, because it’s a problem that’s not going to go away. We have make sure the person acknowledges they have first have an illness and two make sure they seek treatment. Just like when people have addictions to alcohol and drugs, we need to be just as willing to help them seek treatment for mental illness. It’s all of our responsibility.

Below are some statistics on Mental Health in the Black Community found on the Surgeon General’s Report on the HHS website.

Availability of Mental Health Services

The public mental health safety net of hospitals, community health centers, and local health departments are vital to many African Americans, especially to those in high-need populations. African Americans account for only 2% of psychiatrists, 2% of psychologists, and 4% of social workers in the United States.

Access to Mental Health Services

Nearly 1 in 4 African Americans is uninsured, compared to 16% of the U.S. population. Rates of employer-based health coverage are just over 50% for employed African Americans, compared to over 70% for employed non-Hispanic whites. Medicaid covers nearly 21% of African Americans.

Use of Mental Health Services

Overall, only one-third of Americans with a mental illness or a mental health problem get care. Yet, the percentage of African Americans receiving needed care is only half that of non-Hispanic whites. One study reported that nearly 60% of older African American adults were not receiving needed services.

Interesting NPR Interview from 2008


View the 2008 Department of HHS Center for Mental Health Reports Broken Down by State