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July 03, 2019

Six Steps to Better African American Mental Health

Getting the Care You Deserve

Sophia L. Thomas DNP, FNP-BC, PPCNP-BC, FNAP, FAANP

If you’re African American and struggling with mental health, finding care may not be as easy or straightforward as you might think.

Nearly 17 million African Americans have suffered with a diagnosable mental illness in the past year – more people than the populations of Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia combined – but long-held cultural stigmas and barriers to care can make it hard to access treatment.

Here’s how to ditch the preconceived notions and clear the hurdles:

  1. Embrace reality. Mental illness is very common. One in five adults will have a mental health issue.
  2. Break the silence. Ignoring mental health problems will only make them worse.
  3. Find a provider you trust. Better outcomes are associated with patients who feel understood.
  4. Navigate the system. Nurse practitioners (NPs) are more likely to serve in underrepresented areas and are often more accessible than other specialists.
  5. Tackle logistics. Getting off work, finding childcare and arranging transportation can be the biggest obstacles to treatment.
  6. Reclaim your life. Mental health challenges are a leading cause of disability. Ask for help if you need it!

Mental health does not discriminate, but minorities disproportionately bear the burden of mental health struggles because their path to care can be challenging. Everyone deserves access to quality mental health care, however, so stand up to stigmas and fight for the care you deserve. To learn more, visit www.wechoosenps.org.