According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health, "African Americans are 20% more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites.:  Another disturbing fact from this report:  "A report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that from 1980-1955, the suicide rate among African Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233%, as compared to 120% of Non-Hispanic Whites."

We have created this comprehensive guide to shed light on these alarming statistics and to highlight how attitudes, socioeconomic status, stigmas, education, and culturally educated practitioners can affect mental health and addiction in the African American community.  Packed with resources on substance abuse and addiction in the African American community, the prevalence of mental illness and attitudes toward mental illness in the African American community, and resources to address underlying factors and challenges, this guide aims to help you address mental illness and related issues before addiction takes control.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that in December 2014 the rate of illegal drug use among African Americans ages 12 and older was 12.4 percent.  Compared to the national average (10.2), this data revels a greater prevalence of illegal drug use the African American community.  Binge drinking is another significant issue that affects a large portion of the United States population.  SAMHSA states that the rate of binge drinking is a problem in the African American community (21.6) as well as the nation overall (23%).

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) states that "addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry."  Those with addiction often relapse, often doing so multiple times.  Addiction can progress and even disable an individual or possible lead to an early death, pointing to the importance of more comprehensive preventative measures. 

Studies have shown that a person's status in society can affect their mental health.  According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health:

  • Adult blacks are 20% more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult white.
  • Adult blacks living below poverty are two to three times more likely to report serious psychological distress than those living above poverty.
  • Adult blacks are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than are adult whites.
  • While blacks are less likely than whites to die from suicide as teenagers, black teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than are white teenagers (8.2 percent vs. 6.3 percent).

Also, concerning among the African American community, and society at large, is PTSD.  The US HHS Office of Minority Health states that all ages of African Americans are more likely than non-Hispanic whites to suffer from PTSD as a result of being victims of serious violent crimes.

As with many other communities, mental illness is regularly stigmatized in the African American community, often viewed as a personal weakness. The National Library of Medicine states that stigmatization contributes to how low treatment-seeking among the African American community, means that potential problems may go untreated and lead to mere devastating outcomes.

There is some belief in the African American community that mental illness will get better on its own, and often turning to family and/or religion is a way to cope with mental illness. There is a need for culturally educated and experienced Caucasian practitioners may be another reason that professional help is not sought.

This article was printed in part as submitted by Us Health Corps.