African Americans Perceptions of Mental Health and the Implications for Health Service Delivery

2530 Words Dec 15th, 2012 11 Pages
“I’m Not Crazy”: African Americans Perceptions of Mental Health and the Implications for Health Service Delivery
Hillary Marts
Vanderbilt University

African Americans Perceptions of Mental Health and the Implications for Health Service Delivery
As discussed in class, little advancement has been made in the field of mental health care over the past two decades. Rates of mental illness continue to be high especially among certain subgroups, but progress has been stunted by stigma and social environmental issues. Mental health disparities, like many other health disparities, are embedded within a trend of socioeconomic differences (Miranda, McGuire, Williams, & Wang, 2008). Racial and class disparities exist among those afflicted
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When experiencing a mental illness, African Americans face obstacles “related to understanding the problem or situation and limitation in awareness of possible solutions, strategies remedies and resources” (Hines-Martin, Malone, Kim, & Brown-Piper, 2003). In a study by Hines-Martin (2003), participants verbalized that they did not think they were “crazy” and therefore did not need mental health services. In this instance participants showed a lack of knowledge about what mental health illness looks like. They identified mental illness as dichotomous states (Hines-Martin et al., 2003). A study by Mental Health America found similar results. In this study, a majority of African Americans surveyed believed that depression was a “health problem” and in some cases “normal” (MHA, 2012). Talking about mental illness is taboo for African Americans, and as a result they possess little knowledge about specific mental health problems or available treatments (Alvidrez et al., 2008). For African Americans, stigma serves as an impediment to problem recognition. Because they have a misconstrued idea of what mental illness is, they are less likely to contemplate that they have such problems. Alvidrez (2008) found that stigma prevented 65% of their survey respondents from contemplating that they had such problems. Because many African Americans are uninformed about what mental illness is and how it