In our recent report on diverse communities, we surveyed community members and asked them to weigh in on this statement: “I feel comfortable talking with close friends, family, and community members about mine/my loved one’s health.” 67 percent of those who identified as white answered with “strongly agree” or “agree,” compared with 12.5% of those who identified as African American/Black. These disparate responses indicate serious differences in current experiences of stigma.
Our beliefs, norms, values, and language play key roles in every aspect of our lives, including our mental health. When we talk about cultural competence in health, we begin with a doctor’s ability to recognize and understand the role our cultures play in treatment.
Research has shown lack of cultural competence in mental health care, which often results in misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment. Sadly, African Americans and other multicultural communities tend to receive a poorer quality of care.
Support and Treatment
Finding the Right Provider
NAMI suggestions on finding a culturally competent provider:
Ask questions to get a sense of a provider’s level of cultural sensitivity. Providers expect and welcome questions from their patients since this helps them better understand you and what is important to you. Your questions give your doctor and health care team important information about you, such as your main health care concerns. Here are some questions you could ask:
- Have you treated other African Americans?
- Have you received training in cultural competence or on African American mental health?
- How do you see our cultural backgrounds influencing our communication and my treatment?
- How do you plan to integrate my beliefs and practices in my treatment?
Your mental health provider will play an important role in your treatment, so make sure you can work with this person and that you communicate well together. Mention your beliefs, values and cultural characteristics. Make sure they understand them so that they can be considered in the course of your treatment. For example, mention whether you would like your family to be part of your treatment.
Below, resources from NAMI (Note from NAMI: The resources included here are not endorsed by NAMI, and NAMI is not responsible for the content of or service provided by any of these resources.)
Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM)
Group aimed at removing the barriers that Black people experience getting access to or staying connected with emotional health care and healing. They do this through education, training, advocacy and the creative arts.
Black Men Heal
Limited and selective free mental health service opportunities for Black men.
Black Mental Health Alliance
Provides information and resources and a “Find a Therapist” locator to connect with a culturally competent mental health professional.
Black Mental Wellness
Provides access to evidence-based information and resources about mental health and behavioral health topics from a Black perspective, as well as training opportunities for students and professionals.
Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
BLHF has launched the COVID-19 Free Virtual Therapy Support Campaign to raise money for mental health services provided by licensed clinicians in our network. Individuals with life-changing stressors and anxiety related to the coronavirus will have the cost for up to five (5) individual sessions defrayed on a first come, first serve basis until all funds are committed or exhausted.
Brother You’re on My Mind
An initiative launched by Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. and NIMHD to raise awareness of the mental health challenges associated with depression and stress that affect African American men and families. Website offers an online toolkit that provides Omega Psi Phi Fraternity chapters with the materials needed to educate fellow fraternity brothers and community members on depression and stress in African American men.
Ebony’s Mental Health Resources by State
List of black-owned and focused mental health resources by state as compiled by Ebony magazine.
Provides culturally sensitive self-care support and teletherapy for African American men and their families. Currently in pilot program available only to residents of MD, VA and DC. Residents of other states can join their waiting list and will be notified when Henry Health is available in their state.
Melanin and Mental Health
Connects individuals with culturally competent clinicians committed to serving the mental health needs of Black & Latinx/Hispanic communities. Promotes the growth and healing of diverse communities through its website, online directory and events.
Provides information on promoting mental health and developing positive coping mechanisms through a podcast, online magazine and online discussion groups.
POC Online Classroom
Contains readings on the importance of self care, mental health care, and healing for people of color and within activist movements.
Organization that provides mental wellness education, resource connection and community support for Black women.
Therapy for Black Girls
Online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. Offers listing of mental health professionals across the country who provide high quality, culturally competent services to Black women and girls, an informational podcast and an online support community.
Online community for African American women to seek support.
Stress & Trauma Toolkit for Treating African Americans in a Changing Political and Social Environment (American Psychiatric Association)
Video: NAMI Urban Los Angeles co-founder Nancy Carter discussing her work with Bebe Moore Campbell to bring mental health awareness to the black community, the origins of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and her personal mental health journey as a peer and family member.
Video: Gigi R. Crowder, Executive Director of NAMI Contra Costa, sharing her story as a family member with lived experience advocating for underrepresented communities.
Video: NAMI California member Mykel Gayent sharing his story of mental health recovery as a veteran with bipolar disorder and PTSD.
Video: NAMI California member Jessie Wright sharing her story as a peer and mental health advocate living with bipolar disorder.
Video: Chris Hubbard of the NFL in NAMI’s “Tackling Mental Health Stigma” video
Video: Dr. Thomas Vance on mental health in the Black LGBTQ+ Community
Fighting Racial Injustice in our Communities (Gigi Crowder, NAMI Contra Costa)
Mental Health in the African American Community (Each Mind Matters)
Mental Health in the Black Community: Why We Can No Longer Be Silent (BlackDoctor.org)
More on the Subject
NAMI’s Ask the Expert webinar on the Impact of Racism and Trauma on Black Mental Health
Statistics on Mental Health and African Americans (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office of Minority Health)
African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be at risk for depression than Whites (National Institutes of Health)
Mental Health Research—Diversity Matters (National Institutes of Health)