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African Americans and Mental Health

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

Although the African American community faces the same prevalence of mental illness as the rest of the population, they are more likely to develop more serious mental health conditions. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems – the most common being major depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), suicide, and PTSD. In addition, African Americans have a greater risk for developing a mental health condition due to homelessness – as blacks make up 40% of the homeless population – and their exposure to violence. Despite these statistics, only 25% of Blacks with a mental illness seek treatment in comparison to 40% of whites. This statistically significant disparity has numerous justifications:

African Americans and Mental Health


For starters, there is distrust among blacks towards the psychotherapy system due to historical prejudice and discrimination. Misdiagnoses, inadequate treatment, lack of cultural competence, and the lack of communication by health professionals cause distrust and prevent many African Americans from seeking or staying in treatment.  


Wealth and income may also play a role. As of 2013, the median black household income was only 58% of the median white household income; and, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2012, 19% of African Americans had no form of health insurance. This can make treatment options – including both therapy and medication – less accessible for blacks.


Studies show that black men often are socialized or grow up in homes where masculinity is emphasized and men are not encouraged to talk about their feelings or emotions. In addition, the  African American community uses family, community and spiritual beliefs to be great sources of strength and support. However, research has found that many African Americans rely too much on faith, family and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even when medical or therapeutic treatment may be necessary.


According to recent studies, African Americans tend to metabolize many medications slower than the general population; and yet, they are more likely to receive higher doses. This – the epitome of a lack of cultural competency – can result in a greater chance of negative side-effects and a decreased likelihood of continuing treatment.

With these reasons and more in mind, it is easy for us to understand why so many black people with mental health challenges tend to avoid the mental health care system. However, African Americans as a whole experience significant amounts of psychological stress as a result of discrimination, social and economic challenges, and racial injustice. This is just one of the reasons AYANA exists. We are here to overcome the barriers that African Americans face, and establish greater trust by de-stigmatizing mental health. We provide culturally competent and quality counselors to guide you through your mental health journey. We believe and strongly advocate that no person should have to settle or compromise on their mental health.

Our app will be launching this summer so email us at to get on our pre-launch list!

#AYANA #AYANATherapy #MentalHealth #AfricanAmerican #Black #BlackMentalHealthMatters

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