Let’s not celebrate Black History Month without talking mental health

Credit: Getty/Klaus Vedfelt

By Christina Abby

February 21, 2024

By Christina Abby, DSW, LMSW, Director of Training & Curriculum, evolvedMD

 

Throughout Black History Month, the role Black Americans have played and continue to play throughout history is recognized and honored. It’s a chance to celebrate the rich cultural traditions and accomplishments of the Black community while also raising awareness about ongoing disparities deeply rooted in American history. 

 

It would be a disservice to highlight Black History Month without also shedding light on the mental health crisis that continues to disproportionately impact minority communities, especially Black Americans. The statistics are sobering.

Black people in the United States:

  •       Are 20% more likely to have serious psychological distress than white people.
  •       Receive mental health treatment at 50% the rate of white Americans
  •       Ages 5-12 were approximately twice as likely to die by suicide than their white counterparts, according to a 15-year study on racial disparity in suicide rates 

 

There are several factors fueling these numbers and several paths to turning the data around. 

 

Here are a few ideas: 

 

Integrate behavioral health in primary care

 Research shows that Black Americans are more likely to seek help in emergency rooms or primary care rather than from mental health specialists.At evolvedMD, we are working to make mental health treatment more affordable and more accessible by spearheading the integration of behavioral health services in modern primary care. 

The psychiatric collaborative care model embeds mental health therapists within a team, led by a patient’s primary care physician. In addition to the behavioral health manager, primary care physician, and psychiatric consultant, evolvedMD has enhanced this model to form a well-balanced wraparound approach that includes care coordinators and clinical managers. This allows the patient to receive services from the comfort of their primary care office, all without judgment or discrimination. 

 

Bring affordable mental health resources into Black communities

 

Arizona ranks 15th in the nation when it comes to how much residents pay to visit a family therapist, with an average cash price of $311-$316. At a time when nearly 20% of Black Americans live below the poverty line, leveraging free or low-cost programs is a starting point to bridging the mental health access gap for minority communities. 

 

Invest in + incentivize Black mental health professionals

 

Only 5% of America’s psychology workforce is Black. Seeing a therapist who understands your lived experiences comes with a host of benefits for the patient, including feeling more connected, more comfortable opening up, and more likely to follow treatment plans.

 

If we promote opportunities for Black professionals to pursue careers in mental health, enhance the visibility of the diverse workforce, ensure fair and equitable pay, offer scholarships for graduate training, and more, you will see a steady increase in Black therapists who are ready to serve the unmet needs of their communities.

 

Honor and celebrate those who paved the way

 

Black Americans’ contributions to the field of mental health have long been overlooked. Take the time to learn about and celebrate trailblazers like Mamie Phipps Clark, Ph.D., Kenneth Bancroft Clark, Ph.D., Dr. Paul Cornely, Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, Joseph L. White, Ph.D., and many more who spent their lives working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health in the Black community, while also increasing access to trustworthy, affordable care.

 

Honor yourself and your community by being part of the solution

If you are experiencing or believe you are experiencing any mental health stressors, we encourage you to make yourself a priority by visiting any of our partner primary care offices to receive upfront and ongoing behavioral health services. 

If you are a behavioral health professional and would like to join us in providing quality, affordable service, please visit www.evolvedmd.com to learn more.

 

About evolvedMD

Launched in 2017, evolvedMD is leading the integration of behavioral health services in modern primary care. Uniquely upfront and ongoing, our distinctive model places behavioral health

specialists on site within a practice. evolvedMD offers an economically viable and better way to integrate behavioral health that ultimately drives improved patient outcomes.

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