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Mental Health

SAMHSA Launches Mental Health Campaign for the African American Community

(From the SAMHSA news release, 2/23/10)

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), working in collaboration with the Ad Council and the Stay Strong Foundation, announced today the launch of a national public service advertising (PSA) campaign designed to raise awareness of mental health problems among young adults in the African American community. The new PSAs were unveiled at a Black History Month event at Howard University this morning to coincide with the first annual HBCU National Mental Health Awareness Day. The launch was telecast to colleges and universities nationwide.

Mental illnesses, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are widespread in the U.S. and often misunderstood. According to SAMHSA, in 2008 there were an estimated 9.8 million adults aged 18 or older living with serious mental illness. Among adults, the prevalence of serious mental illness is  highest in the 18 to 25 age group, yet this age group is also the least likely to receive services or counseling.  In 2008, 6.0 percent of African Americans ages 18-25 had serious mental illness in the past year. Overall, only 58.7 percent of Americans with serious mental illness received care within the past 12 months and the percentage of African Americans receiving services is only 44.8 percent.

“Raising understanding and attention to these issues within the African American community will provide greater opportunities for those needing help to receive effective mental health services,” said Kathryn A. Power, Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services.

Created pro bono by Grey Worldwide through the Ad Council, the campaign aims to promote acceptance of mental health problems within the African American community by encouraging, educating and inspiring young adults to step up and talk openly about mental health problems. The television, radio, print and Web ads feature real personal stories of African Americans dealing with mental health problems, and they aim to engage those in the community to support young adults who need help. The PSAs direct audiences to visit a new website, www.storiesthatheal.samhsa.gov, where they can learn more about mental health problems and how to get involved.

Click here to read the press release.

Black masculinity

Do Black men adopt “traditional masculinities?”

In “A meta-study of black male mental health and well-being,” featured in the August 2010 issue of the Journal of Black Psychology, Dr. Watkins and colleagues explored the mental health and well-being of Black males. One of the most provocative findings from the meta-study were the qualitative studies that addressed traditional masculinities among Black males. Below is an excerpt from the publication. A copy of the article can be obtained via the “publications” page of this website:

Though our meta-study findings did not speak to whether Black men adopt traditional masculine ideologies, we did uncover findings that challenge the rationale for why Black men may endorse more traditional masculine behaviors than White men. For example, our findings suggest that the educational and economic status of Black men may shape their adherence to traditional and nontraditional masculine behaviors more than their lack of access to the White-dominated power structure (Ravenell et al., 2006; Royster et al., 2006; Warfa et al., 2006; Watkins et al., 2007). Hegemonic masculinity (Hearn, 2004)— the normative cultural and ideological beliefs about what it means to be a man in the United States—and other factors associated with gender, therefore, may be as important to understanding Black men’s mental health outcomes as the role of race and cultural racism (Jones, 1997). Due to the cultural importance of the intersection of race and gender, there is a need to consider how race and the historical context influence the multiple hegemonic masculinities that may influence Black men’s mental health outcomes (Connell & Messerschmidt, 2005; Smiler, 2004). Stoic behaviors and other culturally appropriate responses to stress may be a barrier to care for Black men (Kendrick et al., 2007; Royster et al., 2006; Watkins & Neighbors, 2007; Watkins et al., 2007); and for men in general, alcohol and tobacco use, comfort food, and illegal drug use may be behavioral responses to stress that are also perceived as beneficial for helping to manage stress (Jackson & Knight, 2006).