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New Study Shows How Racial Bias Impacts Mental Health Care for Black Community

What happened: A new study revealed that Black patients often fear seeing mental health specialists amid concerns that they will be stereotyped and judged based on their race. The research by the Regenstrief Institute looked at how patients interpret verbal and non-verbal communication when seeking care. The researchers interviewed 85 Black veterans needing mental health services. According to the study, the veterans identified threatening cues which included, “lack of racial diversity representation in health care settings and perceptions of providers’ fears of Black patients.” Researchers said the study should help guide providers in offering better care for minority groups,

We aren’t asking providers to walk on eggshells, we are encouraging them to engage in two-way communication in order to better understand the people they serve and, ultimately, to promote health equity. — Johanne Eliacin, PhD, Regenstrief Institute, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

The Frontlines: Although Black American people face mental health conditions at a similar rate as the rest of the population, the community faces different challenges when it comes to seeking care.

  • According to the American Psychiatric Association, only 1 in 3 Black people who need mental health services actually receive them.
  • Only 2% of psychologists and 21.3% of psychiatrists are members of minority groups.
  • Statistics show people are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than white Americans.
  • There is also often a stigma within the Black community when it comes to mental health. According to Columbia University, “Research has found that the lack of cultural responsiveness from the therapist, cultural mistrust, and potential negative views from the therapist associated with stigma impact the provision of mental health services in the Black community.”

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A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, DaVonna Williams, shared, “Mental health issues are not ethnic or color specific occurrences that only impact people who look a certain way. They are very much human things. There is already a stigma about mental health, but there is a double standard faced by those who are already from marginalized communities.” You can submit your first-person story, too.

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Other things to know: Experts say social media has helped mental health become a more open conversation within the Black community. Here is what Mighty contributors are saying about this important topic:

How to take action: You can learn more about mental health disparities among Black people by visiting the Black Mental Health Alliance.

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