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Mental Illness In African American Culture

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According to research, African Americans tend to have more shameful attitudes towards individuals with mental illness compared to European Americans (Ward et al, 2009; Poussaint & Alexander, 2000). Within African American culture, admitting one has mental illness is sometimes viewed as a personal weakness or lack of faith (Ward et al 2009; Boyd-Franklin, 2003). This perceived stigma often deters African Americans from discussing their mental health concerns with family and professionals. For Black women in particular, the issue of stereotype has been an overlapping factor affecting the use of services for mental illness. Sexual objectification can be linked to mental health problems among African American women. Objectification theory hypothesizes…show more content…
The image of the “strong Black woman” dissuades Black women to show weakness, while also adding to a cultural stigma regarding mental illness (Beauboeuf-Lafontant, 2008). The social stigma attached to seeking professional help not only affects the individual but the family as well. Some researchers suggest that traditional gender roles influence professional help seeking by affecting the level of concern a woman has about seeking help in the first place (Vogel, Wester, and Larson,…show more content…
It has been reported that in African American culture “toughing it out” is encouraged during difficult situations. This can be seen in cultural attitudes about mental illness. Although African American women are more likely to be encumbered by mental illness, however their use of mental health services is low (Matthews & Hughes, 2001; Neal-Barnett & Crowther, 2000). Mental illness in African American women can be associated with shame or embarrassment as it demonstrates a sign of “weakness” or lack of control over one’s life. Because of the collectivist orientation in the African American community, individuals rely heavily on community opinion as a determinant of appropriate and inappropriate courses of action (Sellers et al., 1998). In general negative descriptions are credited to those who suffer mental illness. Cultural identity (Tata & Leong, 1994), cultural mistrust (Nickerson,Helms,&Terrell,1994),and cultural commitment (Price & McNeill, 1992) have been linked with factors such as attitudes toward seeking help, tolerance for the stigma associated with seeking help, and being open to talking about problems with a
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