Opinion: African Americans and Mental Health


African Americans and Mental Health

By: Cierra Smith

Mental health has long been misconstrued as a nonexistent or minute concern within lower income neighborhoods throughout the country. As a result, many people go untreated and form a sense of shame for their mental disabilities.

According to Mentalhealthamerica.net, “68.7 percent of adult whites with a major depressive episode in 2009 received treatment, only 53.2 percent of adult blacks did.”

Some organizations on the Syracuse University campus work to bring awareness to this issue of mental health among people of color. The Iota Upsilon chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. held a forum on the SU campus on Monday, September 8 about the issue. The forum tackled the negative stigma within communities of color- specifically African American communities- and how mental illness has been viewed as a “curse” that is wrong and shameful.

The panel consisted of Ms. Wanda Hines McGriff, Keith Alford, and Minister Kathy Hodge Davis. The panelists shared their experiences dealing with people with mental illnesses as well as how many African Americans feel ashamed to get treatment.

It was also suggested that there is a direct correlation between the stigma of having a mental illness as an African American and the number of African Americans going into the field of psychology, giving the misconception that Black people do not have mental health concerns.

Many African Americans may also disregard mental checkups as a secondary obligation due factors such as socioeconomic status.

Dr. Keith Alford told noted that these forums are crucial to breaking the shameful bias on mental illness. He continued to advise speaking on a regular bases and refraining from judgmental speech when speaking about mental illness.

The panel consensually agreed that there are signs such as not taking care of oneself on a regular basis. It is well advised to provide support to a friend if they exhibit any signs or symptoms of a mental illness.

“In our weaknesses, we are still strong”, stated Ms. Wanda Hines McGriff .

There are many outlets for help in the Syracuse community such as the Counseling Center at (315)443-4715. If you are feeling depressed or have signs of uneasiness, please seek help. You are not alone.

Untitled-2Cierra Smith


September 18 2014