Mental Health: Using Voices to Combat Stigma and Build Trust

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Richard G. Traylor

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Nov 13, 2021, 12:28:50 PM11/13/21
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An increase in the rate of depression and anxiety in the United States have been triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak and racial unrest in the past year. The stress and trauma that comes as a result of these tumultuous events has prompted discussions about mental health in the Black community, where the issue was once considered unpopular.

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 Patrice Harris, MD, a psychiatrist and editor in chief of Everyday Health's medical department in chief. analyzes the stigma that is associated with mental illness, distrust of the healthcare system, and other factors that prevented Black Americans from receiving appropriate treatment in the past, and examines ways to make mental health as important as physical health.

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 Stigma -- the negative attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions -- about mental health is very common. "I've been told by people that if you've got a mental illness this implies that you've got some flaw in your character, or an ethical flaw, are unlikable, or maybe you didn't pray for long enough" says Dr. Harris. "But there is no shame in suffering from a mental illness , and there's you shouldn't feel ashamed of seeking help."

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 The distrust of medical professionals by Black Americans is rooted in mistreatment in the past, including the 19th century's gynecologic procedures on enslaved women without the use of anesthesia, the 40-year-long U.S. Public Health Service Syphilis Study at Tuskegee in the United States, the extraction and analysis of Henrietta's cervical cells without her knowledge, and more.

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But existing socioeconomic and healthcare system inequities play a important role, as do the absence of cultural knowledge and competency among healthcare professionals. Trust is an essential element for improving health outcomes. Harris states "To be trusted , you must be reliable."

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