Black History Month: Mental Health in African American Communities

Maryland psychiatry experts examine mental health in Black communities and how we can help improve it.

Every February, Americans all around the country celebrate Black History Month. This federally-recognized celebration allows U.S. citizens to reflect on all of the amazing contributions the African American community has made to the country. It also encourages our fellow Americans to think about how far we still have to go in terms of achieving racial justice for Black citizens. 

Growing up in a world where the systems in place immediately put one at a social and economic disadvantage can take a serious toll on one’s mental health. That’s why mental health services play a large part in addressing the systemic inequalities that Black people continue to face today. In our latest blog post, Maryland psychiatry experts examine mental health in the Black community and how we can help improve it. 

Mental Health Disparities Among Black Americans

Maryland psychiatry group reviews the primary causes behind mental health disparities in the African American community.

two black friends sitting next to each other in bleachers
Systemic racism dates back all the way to 1776.

When examining systemic racism and its effect on the Black community, we need to go back in history all the way to the early European settler colonists. Since the start of large trade slaves like the Atlantic Slave Trade, policies have been put in place to keep BIPOC at a socioeconomic disadvantage to white U.S. citizens. These include:

  • 1850 Fugitive Slave Act
  • Three-Fifths Compromise
  • Jim Crow Laws
  • Segregation 
  • Black Codes

Even after slavery was outlawed and voting rights were given to Black citizens, many BIPOC still faced racism in the school, workplace, and general community. Let’s examine some of these cases more closely through the lens of Maryland psychiatry experts.

Police Brutality

This past summer, thousands of protestors around the country took to the streets to speak out against the death of unarmed Black man George Flloyd. Unfortunately, George Flloyd was not the first, or last, victim of police brutality. Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Tamir Rice are just several other examples of people who were killed at the hands of police officers. Even before his tragic death, Black people were largely distrustful of police offers. 

As we stated before, people don’t have to be victims of these horrific acts themselves to feel the mental burden of them. Since George Flloyd’s death, reports of poor mental health spiked in the African American community. 

Medicine

Systemic racism can also be found in healthcare. Implicit bias can prevent physicians from giving BIPOC patients the care they need. BIPOC medical workers themselves may also be victims of racial attacks in the workplace. 

The proof is in the numbers. According to the CDC, POC in certain socioeconomic groups were found to be at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than white U.S. citizens. Educational, economic, and housing gaps have also contributed to their increased risk of developing COVID-19. 

Education and Workplace

It is also common for Black youth to experience discrimination at school. This can include microaggresions like being told they are “articulate” for someone of their race or even outright harrassment from other classmates and teachers. Unfortunately, this may not stop after graduation as workplace discrimination is a large problem too. African Americans are also much more vulnerable in the labor market, and are often some of the first to be let go if a company goes south the economy goes sour.

After taking a look into the struggles that Black citizens face on a daily basis, we can garner much deeper insight into the mental health experiences they are currently going through. 

Maryland Psychiatry Resources

Different resources that Black Americans can turn to for help

young black female doctor
You don’t have to suffer through these mental health issues alone. Help is out there for you.

Numerous studies on mental health in the African American community found several trends:

  • There is still a prevalent stigma against discussing mental health issues
  • Participants were apprehensive, but willing to seek mental health services
  • Men, in particular, are concerned about the stigma surrounding mental health
  • Many patients worry that their counselors aren’t equipped to treat their specific issues
  • Black people with mental health conditions were more likely to be in jail than people of other races
  • Most people with a substance use disorder did not receive any treatment for it

If you are struggling with your mental health, know that there is help out there for you. The Psych Associates of Maryland offer psychotherapy, medication, TMS therapy, and more services to help you overcome your most difficult mental health struggles. In addition to these treatment options, you can also seek out special mental health programs for African Americans. 

Our top recommendations include:


Systemic racism continues to take its toll on BIPOC today. A Black person doesn’t even have to be a direct target of racism to suffer from poor mental health outcomes. Witnessing or learning about violent acts of racism can severely harm one’s mental health. If you are a BIPOC who has been suffering from depression and anxiety, you are not alone. The Maryland psychiatry experts at the Psych Associates of Maryland are here to help you. Contact the team today to learn more information about our services.

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