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A newly released study published in the  Psychological Services journal says that Blacks who are better educated are significantly less likely to seek the services of a mental health professional than their white counterparts.

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“Past research has indicated [that] people with higher education levels are more likely to seek out and receive mental health services. While that may be true for whites, it appears the opposite is true for young adult blacks,” said sociologist and study author Dr. Clifford L. Broman.

Many Blacks have opted to not get the help that they need from mental health care professionals due to the stigma associated with mental health treatment. Traditionally, African Americans have relied primarily on family, religious, and social communities for emotional support rather than trained professionals.

Still, the statistics involving mental health and the Black community are nothing to make light of, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health:

  • Across a 15-yer span, suicide rates increased 233 percent among African Americans ages 10 to 14 compared to 120 percent among Caucasians in the same age group
  • African Americans are disproportionately more likely to experience social circumstances that increase their chances of developing a mental illness
  • African Americans make up 40 percent of the homeless population and only 12 percent of the U.S. population.  People who are homeless are at a greater risk of developing a mental illness
  • Nearly half of all prisoners in this country are black.  Prison inmates are at a high risk of developing mental illness.
  • Children in foster care and the child welfare system are more likely to develop mental illnesses.  African American children make up 45 percent of the foster care population

Dr. Broman’s study examined two sets of data collection from adults ages 18 to 26 and children 13 to 18. More than 10,000 subjects were involved in the research.

Researchers discovered that Whites who had previously enlisted the help of mental health care workers were likely to seek assistance again while the opposite was true for Blacks.  Interestingly enough, young Black adults who had been given a diagnosis of clinical depression were 20 times more likely to utilize the services of a mental health practitioner than those without a diagnosis.

There have also been earlier studies performed that concluded Blacks did not receive the best of care when using mental health services and were turned off by the dissatisfying experience.

“Practitioners need to address the concerns of Black clients in a culturally sensitive and appropriate manner, and during exit interviews, they should ask what is appropriate and what didn’t work,” Dr. Broman said.



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