Stigma linked to blacks’ approach to depression

Posted: February 9, 2018 at 2:22 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE — Stigma is a main reason blacks don’t seek treatment for depression, an audience heard Thursday.

Community and state leaders gathered Thursday for a luncheon talk titled “Black Minds Matter,” part of Compassion Fayetteville’s Black History Month events.

Kamra Mays, diversity chairman for the Arkansas Psychological Association, discussed depression and anxiety and how it specifically affects blacks while guests dined at Mermaids on College Avenue.

Depression is the leading cause of disability in the United States for residents ages 15-44, Mays said. The average age of onset is 32, she said.

The average black person in America is more likely than the average white person to have depression, Mays said, but far less likely to seek treatment.

Stigma, she said, is one of the biggest problems.

“We believe that depression — as African-Americans, that is — is a necessary condition of life and must be endured. We fear being labeled as insane, already battling being called a lot of other names,” she said.

African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental-health problems than the general population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health.

Mays said she wanted to avoid talking about medication, and focused on spirituality, cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise and diet as possible solutions for these common mental illnesses.

Terry Bankston brought up how he felt that family caregivers were especially in need of mental-health services. This affects almost everyone at some point, he said.

“When people that are close to you or around you get sick, the support person doesn’t have access to support. On top of having all their stuff, they are taking on all this stuff they may not have knowledge of or experience of doing before,” Bankston said.