African American Health and Wellness

April is National Minority Health Month so I thought it would be a good time to talk about health disparities that African Americans face. A report by the Institute of Medicine found that these health disparities demonstrate a complex problem that includes aspects of bias, discrimination, and stereotyping. They reported, "Mental health care occurs relatively frequently in emergency rooms and psychiatric hospitals." African Americans are overrepresented in emergency and inpatient services. What this means is that African Americans disproportionately use these services instead of mental health care clinics and other centers. The National Survey of American life found that 10.1% of African American used some form of mental service within the past year; this includes 31.9% of African Americans who meet DSM-IV criteria (Diagnostic Statistical Manual, which is what psychologists/psychiatrists use to diagnose psychological disorders; this article came out before the new DSM-V). Other studies have highlighted similar disparities. African Americans have a greater mental illness-induced "disease burden" than White Americans, meaning that they experience more disabling forms and experience them for longer times. Of African Americans diagnosed with depression, 57% experience chronic depression. Additionally, African Americans have lower odds of receiving evidence-based treatments. These disparities continue into the studies that assess treatment quality and effectiveness. African Americans are underrepresented in efficacy studies (whether the treatment works in ideal situations).