Mental health issues still carry stigma in communities of color

January 23, 2023

“Imma just pray about it;” “I’m not crazy;” “I’m not weak.”

Phrases like that are common among people of color for whom mental health issues carry a stigma that requires those suffering to think it’s all about mind over matter.

In households of Black Americans, mental health issues are rarely acknowledged. If you’re depressed, relatives accuse you of being lazy and assume a better work ethic would fix your problem; if you’re unhappy and start crying, they frequently answer with “I’ll give you something to cry about.”


Many parents hardly notice the days when you’re down and alone and the only thing you hear is your heartbeat. Being tough for too long and frequently thinking about your issues leads to looking for affection and approval in all the wrong places, such as looking at teachers as mother figures and coaches as father figures.

Stephine Sanders, a second year graduate student in the counseling program, talks about growing up living with a father with PTSD who was treated different because of this disorder

“I think people with mental health disorders experience a lot of stigmas in society which is unfair,” she said.

Sanders says when she was growing up, her family did not take mental health issues seriously.

“I remember when I was a teenager, I had a lot of mental health disorders that I could not directly diagnose or had a hard time positively coping with mental health,” she said.

Mental health disorders are connected with a twofold increase in the likelihood of dropping out of college without graduating, and mental health difficulties throughout college are predictive of lower academic success. Today’s college students manage a perplexing number of obstacles, including homework, relationships, food/housing insecurity, money, extracurriculars, and adjusting to course work and campus life.

“In 2020–2021, >60% of students met criteria for one or more mental health problems, a nearly 50% increase from 2013. Mental health worsened among all groups over the study period,” according to the Journal of Affective Disorders.


Instead of getting help, college students of color frequently turn to poor coping techniques for these mental health issues. Oversleeping is a harmful coping strategy used by college students; as a result, they will start to miss class and perform poorly. The most typical of them is using too much alcohol or drugs. They can also help to dull feelings of pain and negative thoughts that are being purposely avoided. Excessive use of stimulants and depressants can cause major health issues, addiction, overdose and even death.

There are many things you may do on your own to combat depression or mental health concerns even though taking prescription medicine and attending therapy can be very beneficial. Your physical activity, way of life and mindset are all treatments and effective coping methods.

Steven Gear, a Ph.D. student, works for CAPS and elaborates on the healthy coping mechanisms that students might adopt, beginning with combating negative ideas.

“When you’re dealing with depression or mental health concerns, you tend to go to the worst possible conclusions or thoughts. You might feel like you have no one and or are lonely, but think logically and positively about every notion and never the worst-case scenario,” he said.

Having a routine is crucial, he said.

“Depression or mental health issues can take away your structure from day to day, making a daily schedule or planner can help you get back on track,” Gear said.

He talks about establishing a routine and setting objectives for yourself. When you’re struggling with mental health concerns, you frequently feel as though you can’t accomplish anything. Gear advises starting out with small tasks, like doing the dishes or the laundry. As you start to feel better, you add more and you’ll have this sense of satisfaction once you finish them.

Every culture has its own way of making sense of the very subjective experience that is mental health knowledge. Each has an opinion on whether mental illness is real or perceived, whether it is a mental or physical illness, or both, who is at risk for it, what causes it, and, probably most crucially, the level of negative stigma associated with it. Mental illness may be more widespread in some communities and societies. Although, this is also influenced by whether the problem is caused by inherited or societal factors.

People decide how they will live with mental illness and seek therapy based on these societal influences and standards. Cultural factors frequently influence how much help people receive from their families and communities. This is especially important because mental health issues cannot be simply neglected and ignored; doing so has a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, can result in major distress and has ramifications for their health.

People of color, in general, have been constantly trained to be strong and to have their guard up at all times. Thus, being strong takes away the ability to speak about mental illness and mental health.

Sanders said, “I have an Hispanic mother and a Black father; even from my dad he always made sure I was a strong women because guys can take advantage of it and not showing because we may look weak, and I think that is something that was implemented at very young age.”

According to the article, Mental Health Disparities Among College Students of Color, “Across race/ethnicity, we find modest variation in symptom prevalence and larger variation in service utilization. Overall, treatment use is lower among students of color relative to white students, even when controlling for other variables in regression models. Asian/Asian American students have the lowest prevalence of treatment, at only 20% among those with apparent mental health conditions.“

In terms of mental health, college students of color continue to be understudied. Some studies have indicated that students of color have a higher rate of depression and anxiety in addition to higher degrees of illness and disability than white students.

Now that we are aware of the issue, we may take steps to address mental health and its cultural roots, which range from unhealthy coping mechanisms to the belief that one must be tough or that mental health is irrelevant and won’t matter in a few years.

In order for persons dealing with mental health issues to receive care as soon as they notice their condition deteriorating and avoid reaching the point where they feel they are unable to cope with life, students and colleges must endeavor to reduce stigma and raise awareness.

SIU offers Wellness & Health Promotion Services instruction in health promotion and prevention to give students the knowledge they need to make wise decisions about their health and well-being.

Students who live in University Housing have access to counseling thanks to a collaboration between CAPS and the residence halls. For assistance with everything from crisis services, intakes and individual treatment, students can phone or visit the office. In addition, group therapy, workshops and seminars are offered. The $10.00 door fee per visit is charged to your bursar account. Students who are unable to pay the door fee can get financial assistance.


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    Harold A MaioJan 23, 2023 at 10:48 am

    We are often taught (even at college level), trained is a better term, to say there is a stigma to mental health issues. The training is largely successful, we do.

    Harold A Maio