Mental health stigma is defined as devaluing, disgracing, and disfavoring individuals with mental illness. As many of us know, there is a stigma associated with mental illness and treatment in our society. In certain groups, such as the African American community, the stigma is more severe due to social and cultural biases.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental illness (such as depression, suicidality or anxiety) is often perceived as a weakness in African American communities. Additionally, many individuals do not seek treatment because of the lack of access to information and the belief that mental health treatment does not work.

“The first step to help decrease the stigma of mental illness and treatment is to talk about it,” said Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center’s psychiatrist Dr. Chad Lennon. “Some people may be ashamed about their illness or fear judgment from others, however, it is important for people to feel comfortable to see a mental health professional for help.”

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Common mental health disorders among African Americans include major depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder. Knowing that mental illness can look different in people of different cultures can also help decrease stigma of mental illness.’

“It’s important to learn the warning signs of mental illness to be proactive in connecting our loved ones to the treatment they need,” said Dr. Lennon.

October is National Depression Awareness month. If you or a loved one is experiencing depression or another mental illness, call 800-204-8600 to schedule a consultation. Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center is available to help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Chad Lennon, MD

Chad Lennon, MD

Psychiatrist, Shady Grove Medical Center

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