Why are mental health problems more prevalent in black communities?


Black community members in Britain (not in predominantly black countries) are more likely to suffer from mental health illnesses than their white counterparts. Why? There is no confirmed reason, but there are strong speculations that it has to do with systematic pressures, economic struggles and several other prejudices and biases. Living in a white society automatically means that you differ from the norm. As social beings, we tend to naturally blend in with our peers and communities, trying to fit into a society that criminalises and stereotypes its black members can lead to several unhealthy mental/thought mechanisms.

Often, in order to assimilate, black members of society are required to reject parts of their blackness and culture. Blackness generally causes offense, lamentation, speculation and othering, aspects of us that are different need to be justified and explained - which can easily create feelings of shame. Black people's blackness is accepted in lesser forms. Growing up in a society that mainly employs, partially respects and cares for a diluted version of its black members would imaginably cause several disturbing manifestations of dissociation, self-revision and self-rejection.

Understanding the offense that being black causes to white societies can also add pressure to Afro-Caribbean people. The need to counteract stereotypes and reassure white members of society that as an individual, you are wholesome and safe, is demanding. The burden of knowing that your actions will automatically be linked with your ethnic background is very stressful. Being passive when disrespected in order to not embody "aggression" or the "angry black girl" stereotype, suppresses a lot of healthy, valid and normal responses. Trying not to be too witty during banter so that others don't read it as having an attitude or being sassy/fiery is a form of watering down your personality. Adapting your name to an easier-to-pronounce-version for peers and colleagues, reinforces the importance of their comfort over your existence. Not complaining about racism so that people don't think that you're always playing the "race card" is being accepting and encouraging of subjugation all in the name of accommodating and prioritising the tranquility of whiter members of society. Adopting these mechanisms in everyday life is, unsurprisingly, unhealthy for the mind. It's no wonder why mental illnesses like depression, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia are rampant.

Due to the lack of generational wealth and the stereotypes that label us as unintelligent, lazy and malicious, people of African and Caribbean heritage in Britain are mostly working class. This means that we receive worse healthcare, housing and schooling, it also means that we have less power. In a world where class is seen as a sign of morality and intelligence, and financial difficulties are seen as a result of irresponsibility (not systemic subjugation and inequality), this further disadvantages us.

The mistrust between Afro-Caribbean members of society and healthcare professionals, means that when we do receive mental health treatment, it is usually through police referrals or through the courts - not through primary care like other ethnic groups. And in this care, black people are offered less interactive care (person-centred therapy and rehabilitation etc.) and more medication (with higher doses - due to perceived strength), this leads to a higher rate of negative outcomes.

Lower access to resources, mistreatment from authorities and community members and lower employment prospects, leads to higher crime rates, higher rates of physical and mental illnesses, less free time due to financial constraints and less structural power - which is a basis for more abuse. It is an unfortunate systematic cycle. The problem is not innate.

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