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Association News
New Program Helps Reduce Stigma of Getting Care
Psychiatric News
Volume 47 Number 9 page 10a-10a

While emotional strength and determination have enabled many members of the black community to overcome great adversity throughout history, African Americans are still just as likely to suffer from a mental illness as white Americans.

This is just one of the facts highlighted in Mental Health: A Guide for African Americans and Their Families, a new free public-education tool developed by APA in partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Composed of a 35-page guidebook and a DVD, the culturally tailored consumer-oriented program focuses on the unique experience of a community in which racism, discrimination, poverty, and lack of health insurance may limit access to effective mental health treatment.

The guidebook notes, for example, that African Americans are more likely than those of other races or ethnicities to visit a health care clinician with complaints of physical symptoms that are actually the manifestation of an untreated mental illness.

And negative associations with mental illness may also pose a barrier to members of the black community seeking mental health care, according to the guidebook, with one study finding that African Americans are much less willing than white Americans to take medication for a mental illness.

“The stigma is real in the African-American community when it comes to mental illness,” says former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., now director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, in the guidebook’s 22-minute companion DVD. “The good news is that we now know so much more about mental illness than we did before.”

Also providing commentary on the DVD about the different types of mental illness and how best to treat them are Tracee Burroughs, M.D., of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry, and Michael Torres, M.D., medical director of Universal Counseling Services Inc. in Baltimore and president of the Center for the Integration of Spirituality and Mental Health.

In addition, the DVD features several African Americans speaking about their experiences with depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

The guidebook and DVD also highlight the role that spirituality and “pastoral counseling” often play in providing additional support to members of the black community who are dealing with mental illness.

“APA looks forward to disseminating widely this valuable resource to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness in the black community and to encourage treatment-seeking and a recovery-oriented approach to psychiatric care among African Americans with mental health needs,” said Annelle Primm, M.D., M.P.H., director of APA’s Office of Minority and National Affairs. inline-graphic-1.gif

“Mental Health: A Guide for African Americans and Their Families” is available via e-mail at apa@psych.org or by phone at (888) 357-7924. The guidebook and a video of the DVD content are also available for download on APA’s Web site at www.psychiatry.org/practice/professional-interests/diversityomna/diversity-resources/----mental-health--a-guide-for-african-americans-and-their-families.

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