Socio-economic factors influence the mental health stigma

By Amanda Best 


Approximately one in five Americans experience mental illness in a given year according to the National Association of Mental Illness. African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Factors that increase risk for mental health conditions in communities of color include:

High Poverty Rates Increase Chances for Mental Illness

African-Americans make up 40 percent of today’s homeless population. The stressors of poverty (homelessness, hunger, inability to find jobs) heavily influence mental health and stability.  The federal Health and Human Services Department , HHS , has found.African-Americans living below the poverty level, as compared to those with incomes more than twice the poverty level, are three times more likely to report psychological distress.

“The stigma of going for help in the black community, coupled with severe cuts in funding for mental health services, means that many people with a mental illness end up in the emergency room, or in jail or homeless.”  – Clinical Psychologist Inger E. Burnett-Zeigler, Chicago Tribune

Lack of Cultural Competency and African-American Mental Health Providers

Having a connection with someone culturally, whether with their beliefs, values, or background, is believed to be significant when one is seeking a health care provider.

A lack of cultural competency can result in misdiagnosis and poor quality health care. Studies have shown that African-Americans view the typical psychologist as an ‘older, white male, who would be insensitive to the social and economic realities of their lives,  noted  Dr. Monnica T.Williams in Psychology Today.

But for someone looking for an African-American therapist, the choices might be slim.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness  or NAMI reported that only 3.7 percent of American Psychiatric Association members and 1.5 percent of American Psychological Association members are African American.

Boston-based clinical therapist Dr. Marshaun Glover explains the lack of African-American providers.

The Cost of Therapy

The cost of therapy can be expensive and can become a huge barrier to accessing services.

The cost for private counseling or therapy can range from $50 to $240 for a one-hour session.This is the price for people with insurance, and the price is extraordinarily higher for those without it.

While implementation of the Affordable Care Act has helped to close the gap in the number of uninsured individuals,  the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of HHS. has found 15.9 percent of African-Americans, versus 11.1 percent of white Americans were still uninsured in 2014.

The Huffington Post published a story in 2015 on the expenses of therapy, and readers responded to this topic in huge numbers. Here is a few of their comments:

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About Amanda Best 4 Articles

Amanda is a second year journalism graduate student at Emerson College with a passionate for all aspects of broadcast news. She is passionate about social justice issues, music journalism, and community-building. Amanda believes in the power of journalism to showcase underrepresented voices and inspire powerful dialogue and action.