*In early October, hip-hop performer Kid Cudi surprised fans when he checked himself into rehab — not for addiction or alcohol abuse — but for depression. In the weeks since Kid Cudi’s announcement, the news has helped spark a much-needed conversation about mental health issues among black men.
In a Facebook post, Kid Cudi, whose real name is Scott Mescudi, revealed that he has long-battled anxiety and depression, saying:
“My anxiety and depression have ruled my life for as long as I can remember and I never leave the house because of it. I [can’t] make new friends because of it. I [don’t] trust anyone because of it and [I’m] tired of being help back in my life. I deserve to have peace. I deserve to be happy and smiling.”
In an effort to create a space for black men to share their experiences and express themselves in regards to mental illness, two Twitter users created the hashtag #YouGoodMan, which has since gone viral.
For too long, mental health issues have been seen as a taboo topic in African American communities. Mental illnesses like anxiety, which affects 40 million adults in the U.S., have been considered “white people problems.” It is perhaps for this reason that only one-third of those suffering from anxiety disorders seek treatment.
Anxiety disorders stem from a complex set of risk factors, which include brain chemistry, genetics, and life events. These risk factors are not isolated to one demographic, but rather are universal. Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental illness creates a barrier that prevents many sufferers from seeking treatment. In fact, 80% of people who suffer from depression never receive professional help.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 10% more likely to report suffering from severe psychological distress compared to white Americans. Yet they were less likely to receive treatment.
A study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered that “Higher levels of Afrocentric values were associated with greater perceived stigma about counseling and a greater likelihood of withholding sensitive information in the mental health context.”
In addition to the perception that mental illness is a taboo, other studies have shown that the problem does not solely stem from inside the black community. Research has revealed that many African Americans think of the typical psychologist as a white male who would not be able to relate to the social and economic realities of their experiences. Additional studies have uncovered evidence of microaggressions towards patients of color, such as therapists buying into stereotypes about minorities.
In fact, African Americans account for only 1.4% of the American Psychological Association. And when patients do not feel that they are represented among their health care professionals, it is easy for them to feel isolated and misunderstood.
The racial disparity in health care access is another major factor in the rejection of treatment by black Americans. In 2013, a whole 18.9% of black people did not have access to health insurance.
Anxiety and depression are not the only mental health conditions being overlooked by the black community. About 60 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, and approximately 11% of all children have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). According to a study published in The Journal of the National Medical Association, 69% of black parents have heard of ADHD, but only 10% knew that it was not caused by the consumption of “too much sugar.”
The main problems, it seems, is the lack of accurate information regarding mental health issues as well as the underrepresentation of black Americans in the mental health care field.
Kid Cudi, in his short Facebook revelation, gave a voice to so many people silently suffering from depression and anxiety.