During this six part series on depression, I will share some recent research on depression as it pertains to various groups in the United States. Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders, with over three million cases diagnosed in the United States per year. Depression is described as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest that can lead to a range of behavioral and physical changes. Some of these symptoms may include changes in sleep, energy level, concentration, and self- esteem. In the most severe cases depression can also cause thoughts of suicide.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide please call the national suicide prevention line at 800-273-8255 or go to your local emergency room for immediate assistance.
Depression Among Black Men
Studies have shown that Black men regularly underutilize mental health services. Based on a series of focus groups, perceptions such as social norms, distrust and affordability of medical care, and objections to using antidepressant medications may be involved. This sheds light on how Black men interact with mental healthcare, and provides opportunities for increasing mental health. Prior research suggests that although depression is more prevalent among Whites than Blacks, Black men may be “more vulnerable to experience of depression” and more disabled by depressive symptoms than their White peers. Despite the impact of depressive symptoms on Black men, they are half as likely as their White peers to use mental health services.
In a recent study, a focus group was conducted with a small sample of approximately 26 Black men in St Louis to obtain their perspectives on depression and mental healthcare. Most participants described depression “as being down, feeling hopeless, or being stressed.” A small amount of participants stated “that depression does not exist,” that it was a choice to give in to “feelings of depression.” However, the majority of participants believed that it was important to seek professional help for depression. Although they believed mental healthcare to be important, most participants did not want to seek medical treatment because of the costs involved. They were also not sure how to seek mental health services, and were strongly opposed to the possibility of using medications for mental health. Social factors were also a major deterrent to seeking mental healthcare, with believes about masculinity and men not wanting to be “labeled as weak or crazy” for seeking psychiatric help. The participants also reported concerns about privacy, about “discomfort with the idea of being judged by a professional that did not identify with culturally or socioeconomically.”
Interestingly, social factors may also provide a solution. The participants found that discussing stress and depression “in nonjudgmental support groups,” such as the focus group study, was very helpful and wished to participate in future focus groups. This provides an actionable solution for Black men dealing with depression: seek out social connections and discussion of shared experiences.
References: Hudson, D.L., Eaton, J., Banks, A., Sewell, W., Neighbors, H. (2018). “Down in the Sewers”: Perceptions of Depression and Depression Care Among African American Men. American Journal of Men’s Health, 2018, Vol. 12 (1), 126-137.
About Stephanie Williams, PhD
Stephanie Williams, PhD, is the founder of Integrated Psychological Assessment Services. Her practice focuses on the connection between what we think, feel and do, and how changes can improve one’s life. Dr. Williams believes in empowering people to help them grow, change, or just deal with the daily demands of life.
Call Dr. Williams today for a free consultation: 408-317-0687.