Breaking the Stigma: Why Black Mental Health Matters

Young Black man with mental health challenges is walking down a hall in a blue shirt and jeans carrying a backpack while the people around him are blurred.

Mental health, more mental illness, has been a long-standing issue that the Black community has had to contend with in silence, lacking in many cases the resources necessary to remedy its effects. It’s due in part to a history rife with trauma, injustice, and society’s attempts to nullify, and in some cases erase, the violent nature in which our African ancestors were introduced to the land of the free. 

While new generations of free thinkers are creating a space to openly discuss mental health issues, the subject can still be particularly challenging for people of color. However, recent efforts have been made to make the topic of mental health awareness more approachable and relatable for Black individuals. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, the editorial team at Blavity Inc. has launched a campaign to address the lack of awareness in the Black community regarding mental health and wellness and shed light on issues communities of color face daily. 

Our goal is to provide a safe space allowing Black people to connect, share, and learn about mental health and other related topics. We recognize that in many Black communities, the topic of mental health has not been prioritized, which makes our efforts that much more necessary. We recognize the need for greater transparency around the current state of the Black community’s mental well-being. 

According to Mental Health America, of the 13.4% of the US population identifying as Black or African American, 16% reported having a mental illness within the past year alone. For context, 16% of the Black and African American population in the United States amounts to well over 7 million people, surpassing the number of people currently living in Chicago, Houston, and Philadelphia combined. While factors such as poverty, racism, and violence take a toll on Black people’s mental health and wellness, issues such as generational trauma and maternal mental health also play a role. 

The recommendation to turn to the Bible in hopes that a chemical imbalance can be prayed away is one that the Black community knows well. However, this ancestral remedy has proven to be insufficient. Over time, the desire to seek refuge from mental illness has started to outweigh the fear and shame traditionally tied to mental illness within the Black community, so much so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics reported that from 2018 to 2020, non-Hispanic Black adults visited the emergency department for mental health-related concerns at an annual average rate of 97 visits per 1,000 adults, nearly double the rate of the national average

We hope our Mental Health Awareness campaign encourages communities and individuals to join the conversation and normalize talking about mental health issues. The benefits of seeking support from professionals, friends, family members, and community groups are exponential. As a Black-owned corporation, we feel that it is our duty to highlight important issues that impact our community, including mental health. However, the responsibility is not ours alone. We hope to inspire other organizations to discuss this topic and build their mental health and wellness campaigns with the Black community in mind. 

We all are responsible for continuing the conversation and advocating for mental health awareness. Our collective mental health is essential, and we commend all individuals, groups, and organizations that have taken bold steps to address this issue. We truly believe that greater awareness leads to better outcomes and brighter futures. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, we hope you’ll consider reaching out to one of the following organizations.

Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about our mental health awareness campaign, join our conversation, or launch your own mental health awareness initiative.