HEALTHY MIND MATTERS

Study: African American and Black adults are more likely to suffer from mental illness than white adults

Feb 28, 2023, 6:45 PM | Updated: Mar 1, 2023, 12:05 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — More and more Americans are dealing with stress and mental health challenges, but a recent study shows African Americans are less likely to get help.

A recent study from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, found that African American and Black adults in the U.S. are more likely than white adults to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress.

“We are living in a system that many African Americans have to negotiate whether it is friendly or it is a hostile environment,” said Dr. William Smith, Chief Executive Administrator at Huntsman Mental Health Institute.

Dr. Smith said it’s called Racial Battle Fatigue. He said it’s when people of color suffer various forms of mental, emotional, and physical strain which can lead to psycho-physiological symptoms.

“This is a wearing and tearing on our psychology, our emotions, our physiology, it’s a stress overload,” he said.

But, despite the need for mental health services, only one in three Black adults with mental illness receive treatment.

“Often times the people that get help are the ones with resources,” Dr. Smith said.

“Therapy is expensive, so when it comes to putting food on the table or this, that comes first,” said Breanna Lambert, a therapist in Salt Lake City.

Jeanetta Williams, President of the NAACP Salt Lake Branch, said perceptions around mental illness can also be a hurdle to care.

“There is a stigma as well, thinking if I’m going to seek mental health care, then there is something wrong with me and they don’t want to let people know they need the care,” she said.

Lambert said she is hoping to change that.

She recently became a therapist and said less than one percent of mental health professionals in Utah are black.

“Most of my clients come because they just want to see someone else that looks like them,” she said. “There have been so many times in my life that that’s all I needed and it’s an honor to be able to fill that role for people.”

Huntsman Mental Health Insitute offers counseling services to anyone that needs it. For immediate help, call the nation’s hotline 988, or the Utah Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.


Suicide prevention resources

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or exhibiting warning signs, call, text, or chat the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 which is answered 24/7/365 by crisis counselors at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute. All calls to legacy crisis hotlines, including the old National Suicide Prevention hotline, 1-800-273-8255, will also connect to a crisis care worker at the Huntsman Mental Health Institute as well.

Additional resources

  • SafeUT: Parents, students, and educators can connect with a licensed crisis counselor through chat by downloading the SafeUT app or by calling 833-3SAFEUT (833-372-3388)
  • SafeUT Frontline: First responders, including firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, and healthcare professionals can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUT Frontline app.
  • SafeUTNG: Members of the National Guard can chat with a licensed crisis counselor at no cost 24/7/365 by downloading the SafeUTNG app.
  • Utah Warm Line: For non-crisis situations, when you need a listening ear as you heal and recover from a personal struggle, call 1-833 SPEAKUT 8:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • The Huntsman Mental Health Institute offers a wide variety of programs and services including suicide prevention and crisis services, hospital treatment, therapy & medication management, substance Use & addiction recovery, child & teen programs, and maternal mental health services including birth trauma, pregnancy loss, infertility, and perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.
  • LiveOnUtah.org is a statewide effort to prevent suicide by promoting education, providing resources, and changing Utah’s culture around suicide and mental health. They offer resources for faith based groups, LGBTQ+, youth, employers, firearm suicide prevention, and crisis and treatment options.

Other community-based resources

Center for Workplace Mental Health offers suicide prevention and response for employers.

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Study: African American and Black adults are more likely to suffer from mental illness than white adults