Website aims to remove stigma of mental illness in black communities

August 10, 2011
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Atlanta — According to statistics, only 1 in 3 black people who need mental health care receive it. This exemplifies the well-known fact that the black community faces significant barriers to mental health care. While issues such as racism, institutional mistrust and lack of insurance are major obstacles, the barriers posed by stigma and misinformation are some of the most prohibitive.

BlackMentalHealthNet.com is designed to empower the Black community by promoting mental health and providing a safe place to learn about mental illness, discuss mental health issues, connect with other individuals and families dealing with mental illness, and find treatment.

"Stigma often stifles the conversation regarding mental illness in the Black community," explained Dr. Sarah Y. Vinson, a Harvard-trained, Black psychiatrist and founder and chief editor of BlackMentalHealthNet.com. "Families too often base decisions on little information or misinformation. We hope to change that by providing facts and facilitating dialogue around mental illness in an environment of relative anonymity and acceptance."

BlackMentalHealthNet.com visitors will find clinically based information and summaries of mental health research relevant to the Black community presented plainly. Site contributors represent a variety of disciplines and backgrounds, including psychology, psychiatry, social work, and people with first-hand experience with mental illness.

The site includes valuable resources like a library of mental illness descriptions written specifically for the Black community, links to additional mental health and mental illness resources, and a growing directory of mental health providers working with and within the Black community. The meat of BlackMentalHealthNet.com, however, is its interactive discussion forums and articles.

Several recent postings have a back-to-school theme, including an article by a school psychologist addressing planning ahead and a video discussing school accommodations for mental health issues. Other postings include the first in a series of articles about anxiety by a black anxiety expert; a report on July's State of Black Mental Health Forum on Capitol Hill; a column by a New Orleans native, Hurricane Katrina survivor and psychiatrist-in-training about her personal experience with the disaster's effects on mental health; and an article reviewing some of the ongoing needs for mental health treatment in New Orleans post-Katrina.

"At BlackMentalHealthNet.com, we appreciate the strengths of the Black community while acknowledging its unique challenges, both in a broader social sense and specifically in matters of mental health," said Dr. Vinson. "We want to help people stop looking at mental illness as shameful and provide the information they need to develop their strengths and embrace the help that is available."

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