ATLANTA — Only one in three blacks who need mental health care receives it, underlining the fact that the African-American community faces significant barriers to such care. While issues such as racism, institutional mistrust and lack of insurance are major obstacles, the barriers posed by stigma and misinformation are some of the most prohibitive.
An online resource, BlackMentalHealthNet.com, says it is designed to empower the community by promoting mental health and providing a venue to learn about mental illness, discuss mental health issues, connect with other individuals and families dealing with mental illness, and find treatment.
"Stigma often stifles the conversation regarding mental illness in the Black community," said Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist who is founder and chief editor of BlackMentalHealthNet.com.
"Families too often base decisions on little information or misinformation. We hope to change that by
providing facts and facilitating dialogue around mental illness in an environment of relative anonymity and acceptance," Vinson said in a statement.
The statement said visitors to BlackMental
HealthNet.com will find clinically based information and summaries of mental health research relevant to blacks. Site contributors represent a variety of disciplines and
backgrounds, including psychology, psychiatry, social work, and people with first-hand experience with mental illness.
The site also includes resources such as a library of mental illness descriptions written specifically for blacks, links to additional mental health and mental illness resources and a growing directory of mental health providers working with and within the black community.
But the strength of BlackMentalHealthNet.com is its interactive discussion forums and articles.
Several recent postings have a back-to-school theme, including an article by a school psychologist addressing planning ahead and a video discussing school accommodations for mental health issues.
Other postings include the first in a series of articles about anxiety, a report on a “State of Black Mental Health Forum” held on Capitol Hill in July, a column by a New Orleans native, Hurricane Katrina survivor and psychiatrist-in-training about her experience with the disaster's effects on mental health and an article reviewing some of the ongoing needs for mental health treatment in New Orleans.
“At BlackMentalHealthNet.com, we appreciate the strengths of the black community, while acknowledging its unique challenges, both in a broader social sense and specifically in matters of mental health,” Vinson said. “We want to help people stop looking at mental illness as shameful and provide the information they need to develop their strengths and embrace the help that is available.”