Like most identities, understanding who we are as racial beings is an ongoing process. For Black people in the United States, this process takes place in a socio-political environment wrought with negative stereotypes, systemic oppression and a myriad of psycho-social stressors.
Snapshot of the Population at TU/Snapshot of the Population
Institutional research data from spring term 2021 indicates that of the 20,222 undergraduate and graduate students attending TU, 4985 of them identified as African American/Black. This means that about 25% of the TU student population identified as African American/Black. It is important to keep in mind that there are many TU students who also identify in a variety of ways, inclusive of African American/Black. For instance, many students are multiracial or biracial. In other words, when looking at the African American/Black community, there are many variations within the community to consider, such as class (SES), nation of origin, or someone’s religion. There is no single identity status that marks all individuals within the African/Black community.
Strengths and resilience factors for African Americans often includes but is not limited to-- values around communalism, recognition of the diversity of the group as members of the African diaspora, appreciation for the expression of emotions, being creative, and being spiritual. Many draw strength from their communities in a variety of ways. Many have a variety of ways to define “family.” And many endure stressors given “what else” defines them (e.g., sexual orientation, religion), and their experiences. Strengths within the African American community also often include having a strong sense of Black identity, perseverance, strong work ethic, and having flexible family roles.
Mental illness does not discriminate when it comes to whom it affects. However, given sociocultural issues such as (but not limited to) having access to housing, routinely managing emotions and stressors around microaggressions, or having adequate access to health care services, members of the African American community often face challenges in attending to mental health issues.
A Few Statistics on the Mental Health
*Data taken from the US Dept of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health (5/2021):
- In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Blacks or African Americans, ages 15 to 24.
- The death rate from suicide for Black or African American men was four times greater than for African American women, in 2018.
- The proportion of African Americans who need mental health treatment and get it is only half that of White people.
Another notable statistic: The Anxiety & Depression Association of America’s Board of Directors put out a statement in June of 2020 citing that Black Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. This is due to a variety of issues such as having unmet need for services to having increased exposure to societal stressors.
Common factors/experiences that impact the population’s mental health not only include the emotional toll of racism, racial battle fatigue, and microaggressions, but also a variety of issues commonly faced by other ethnic/racial groups: internalized isms, the challenges of juggling multiple roles (e.g., student, family responsibilities, career/work), and enduring traumatic experiences.
Coping strategies commonly used within the African American/Black community often include:
- Spirituality—e.g., being with community, prayer
- Seeking social support—e.g., turning to friends, family, community members,
- Having strong beliefs in hard work and perseverance.
There are a number of websites and links that provide mental health resources for African Americans. Some are listed below, and some include links to other resources
1. Anxiety & Depression Association of America. It provides one of the statistics noted above and lists a variety of helpful mental health resources for African Americans.
2. This “Mental Health America” page has access to a number of resources such as blogs, screening tools related to mental health, crisis lines, and insurance information.
3. This “Mental Health America” page lists resources specifically for members of the BIPOC population.
4. “Psych Central” has a variety of helpful resources for members of the BIPOC population.
5. BEAM is dedicated to promoting emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities and contains valuable resources such as journaling prompts, culturally-specific psychoeducation info, etc.