I feel sickened by George Floyd’s death and the police brutality we all witnessed. I stand by Black Lives Matter and an end to racism, social injustice and inequalities. In the light of current events in the USA and around the world, today’s article highlights the prevalence of mental health in the Black community, the biological impacts of trauma, racism and intergenerational trauma, some reasons why mental health services are not being used, the impacts of racism on physical health and some resources geared to Black mental health.
In this recent article by Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, Addressing Mental Health in the Black Community, we learn the following:
Research suggests that the adult Black community is 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems, such as Major Depressive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Additionally, Black emerging adults (ages 18-25) also experience higher rates of mental health problems and lower rates of mental health service utilization compared to White emerging adults, and older Black adults.
What shocked me was reading this statistic: “the Black community comprises approximately 40% of the homeless population, 50% of the prison population, and 45% of children in the foster care system.” All of this puts the Black community is at more risk for mental health issues.
The article also highlights the biological impacts of trauma“through enslavement, oppression, colonialism, racism, and segregation” and shares that “intergenerational trauma may be passed down biologically from one generation to the next.”
Some of the factors that may lead to mental health services not being used amongst the Black community are lack of trust, lack of finances and fear:
Lack of trust in the medical system due to historical abuses of Black people in the guise of health care, less access to adequate insurance, culturally responsive mental health providers, financial burden, and past history with discrimination in the mental health system.
I encourage you to read the entire article at this link.
This paper, Transgenerational Consequences of Racial Discrimination for African American Health goes further into the intergenerational effects of racism on both psychological and physical health: immune health, heart health, obesity, diabetes and so on. The paper concludes as follows:
without addressing the harmful consequences of racial discrimination, improving the health of African Americans as well as other marginalized groups, will remain inadequately addressed.
This inspiring quote is from Nelson Mandela from his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom (1994) and no-one says it better than him. It is a message of hope!
Here are some resources geared specifically to Black mental health
- Black Mental Health Resources to Fight the Harmful Effects of Racism
- Black lives matter. Black mental health matters too.
With regards to nutritional support for anxiety, depression and PTSD, everything that I write about in terms of nutritional psychiatry applies. My book, The Antianxiety Food Solution, covers the foundations of diet and how to use amino acids. This recent blog, The psychological trauma of coronavirus – nutritional support for doctors, nurses and their loved ones could easily be adapted to be: The psychological trauma of racism – nutritional support for the Black Community.
I am very aware that when it comes to working with a functional medicine practitioner or a nutritionist, and purchasing supplements/doing special diets may be a major stumbling block for many Blacks with financial hardships. I plan to address this in a future blog.
Until then finding access to real whole foods is a powerful first step. In the SMILES diet depression trial, the first randomized controlled diet depression study, ONE THIRD of the dietary intervention group saw improvements in their depression and anxiety symptoms. This was simply by switching from processed/junk food to real food with no specific dietary restrictions.
By doing this we can start to slowly heal some of the depression, anxiety, current trauma and intergenerational trauma caused by racism and inequalities.
If you have information on non-profit organizations, community gardens, community kitchens and other resources for supporting Black communities when it comes to nutritional supplements and eating real foods please share in the comments.
Please also share your experiences supporting mental health in Black communities. And if you’ve been subject to racism and felt the mental and physical effects please share too. We’re here to support you and learn how we can do better.