What’s clear is that black communities, health-care professionals and public-health officials must mobilize to meet the challenges presented by this problem.
The stigma on mental illness in the black communities is so great that obvious signs are frequently ignored, even by close family members and friends. The first step must come from parents and friends recognizing the behavior patterns that indicate a problem, and then working to get help. And public-health programs, such as Medicaid, must make it easier for young black men to get the counseling and treatment they need.
Even at that point, other problems develop including the lack of black therapists, counselors and psychiatrists to help these patients. Just 4 percent of the nation’s psychiatrists, 3 percent of the psychologists and 7 percent of social workers, are black.
The problems weighing on many black youths are created by racism along with the other tensions that they face in everyday life. In these instances, an African-American counselor or physician may be more likely to reach a solution.
Xanthos also issues a call for “bicultural” training for young black males, teaching survival skills to black men about how to live in a white society. Such training would better prepare black youths for integration into schools and workplaces that are predominantly white, while also preparing them to confront and overcome the discrimination they are likely to face in American society.
Henrie M. Treadwell, Ph.D. is associate director of development at the National Center for Primary Care of Morehouse School of Medicine. He is also director of Community Voices, a non-profit working to improve health services and health-care access, for all Americans.