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Community Advocacy Organization

Structural Racism Continues to be a Barrier for some BIPOC People Seeking Quality Mental Healthcare

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

(Chronicle News Stock Photo)

What causes the stigma for mental healthcare in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities and how do we do away with it? The World Health Organization defines Mental Health as: the foundation for the well-being and effective functioning of individuals. It is more than the absence of a mental disorder; it is the ability to think, learn, and understand one's emotions and the reactions of others. Mental health is a state of balance, both within and with the environment. Physical, psychological, social, cultural, spiritual, and other interrelated factors participate in producing this balance. (Mental health (

For countless years Mental Illness has been a silent predator in BIPOC communities. Since the days of slavery, oppression and misinformation has continuously been seeping through marginalized communities. This can be attributed to many factors dating back to the times of slavery such as, the way African Americans were viewed in the antebellum period. The attitudes and treatment of blacks during this time has bled out and woven itself into the very fabric we call America. Some may call it systemic racism but, for some ignorance to this allows racism to be accepted as part of the norm.

“In 1848 John Galt, a physician and medical director of the Eastern Lunatic Asylum in Williamsburg, Virginia, offered that “blacks are immune to mental illness.” Galt hypothesized that enslaved Africans could not develop mental illness because as enslaved people, they did not own property, engage in commerce, or participate in civic affairs such as voting or holding office. This immunity hypothesis assumed according to Galt and others at that time that the risk of “lunacy” would be highest in those populations who were emotionally exposed to the stress of profit making, principally wealthy white men.” (Mental Illness in Black Community, 1700-2019: A Short History • (

In recent months some have awakened to the longstanding effects of racism and bigotry, including the effects on mental health. Historical dehumanization, oppression, and violence against Black and African American people has evolved into present day racism.

The onslaught of COVD-19 in 2020 magnified Racism, an ongoing pandemic within a pandemic for BIPOC communities within the United States. This pandemic exposed, and heightened long standing health disparities in the U.S. “The police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd amplified the national dialogue on anti-Blackness and racial discrimination, but it's important to address the significant impact that systemic racism has had on the mental health of Black Americans.” (Racial Disparities Lead to Poor Mental Health Care for Black Americans (

Furthermore, segregation and bigotry have been built into systems that govern our nation, where we live work and play. This includes our systems of care which causes systematic oppression, which makes it difficult to be checked and frequently goes unmentioned. This can lead to the consequence of frequent misdiagnoses to BIPOC community member. In addition, cultural barriers can also lead to undiagnosed trauma and lack of understanding thereof.

Given the historical traumas African Americans have been subjected to because of racism, sexism, and economic exploitation and the enormity of our present stressors, it is imperative that we commit to our psychological health. Culturally Competent Health Care within BIPOC Communities is crucial to survival and success.

We must do more to bring awareness to this lack of equity in the controlling systems within the United States. More education around mental health is needed in the Black community, to combat the misinformation and ignorance that has lingered within this nation for an unacceptable amount of time.

It is imperative we continue to bring awareness to oppressive governing bodies and form policies addressing the harm that has already been done. This will require all Americans to take a candid look at white supremacy and implicit bias, and consider how systemic racism contributes to the racial inequities in health care.

BIPOC communities must have fair, equitable access to information and resources provided to improve overall living conditions within the communities. Mental health will not improve for Black Americans until more resources are provided to improve living conditions within their communities. We must work together to bring awareness to barriers faced by BIPOC communities, when seeking quality mental healthcare.

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