The Difference of Mental Health Disparities among Black Immigrants and U.S.-Born Black African Americans

A Research Brief by: Eiman Eltigani

EEThe variation within the black community in United States faces many stress risk-factors that lead to poor mental health outcomes. African Americans face exclusions from educational, social, and economic resources resulted in higher rates of poverty, unemployment, exposure to violence, and chronic illness; all of which are factors that risk their mental health. Over 45.7 million people in the country identify as black, which is a large population that is diverse that affect their black experience differently. It is time to look beyond skin tones and see how other identifies that plays a role in mental health development.

There is plethora of studies available of mental health disparities across differences races, showcasing race relations in the United States. However, blacks are grouped together as one big ethnicity, failing to realize the heterogeneity of this population; leading to a lack of research of health disparities within that group.

To overcome the lack of discussion and resources of mental health, more services should be offered to these vulnerable communities. Also, doctors should be able to recognize stress-factors that influence mental health in their African American patients and refer them to seek services. This will encourage to patients to get treatment, and encourage the idea that mental health is a medical illness that needs serious care and consideration. Effective stigma-reducing educational campaigns should be organized, especially for immigrants who usually carry heavier shame on this issue, to address the issue of negative stereotypes that surround mental health and prevents the black community from seeking care for. These interventions speak to barriers in the African American population, mainly lack of resources and stigma.

There are multiple sets of data and research on how discrimination and stigmas affect black people in particular to their immigration and generational status. U.S. born African Americans have higher rates of mental disorders, like depression, and that is consistent for men, women, and children. This is due to their high degree of identification to the American society that use race as a mean for social stratification and judgment. Although foreign-born black immigrants have lower rates of depression, they are less like to utilize mental health care services due to the negative connotation that surrounds this illness in their culture. Research also shows that U.S.-born black children of immigrants have the highest rates of mental depression disorder because of the combination of the black American struggle and cultural stigma of immigrants.

Future plans should consider programs that include more outreach to immigrants, especially U.S.-born persons, even though they are considered a minority because they experience unique dynamics that pose greater risk. Further research should continue to identify protective and risk factors associated with depression in immigrant and U.S.-born black people. On the individual scale, people can start talking to those in their communities, like peers and family about mental health to reduce stigma. A simple conversation can go a long way in reducing negative perceptions of mental illness.