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The Importance of Mental & Emotional Well-Being in Black Communities

A young couple at home

In honor of Black History Month, we are calling attention to the importance of mental and emotional well-being in Black communities and highlighting organizations that are committed to conducting research, driving policy change, and providing quality resources to help improve mental and emotional well-being in Black communities.

Did you know that Black individuals experience higher rates of certain mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to the general population?

Columbia University reports that the adult Black community is 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems, such as Major Depressive Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 

While emotional issues can impact anyone, there are certain factors that contribute to higher rates of emotional issues among minorities. The added stress of experiencing discrimination, stigmas, systemic inequality, socioeconomic stressors, and outright racism can exacerbate feelings of guilt or self-hatred, leading to increased rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, suicide, and confidence and relationship issues.

Cultural norms and beliefs surrounding mental and emotional well-being and help-seeking behaviors can influence family and societal attitudes toward mental and emotional health. Individuals affected by anxiety, depression, trauma, and other emotional issues may experience stigma and shame, leading to secrecy, isolation, and barriers to seeking help. The perpetuation of stigma within families and communities can prevent individuals from accessing mental health support, worsening feelings of despair and hopelessness.

One study found that more than 80% of Black Americans are very concerned about the stigma associated with mental illness, which discourages them from seeking treatment. 

Similarly, societal views on what constitutes masculinity and the pressure put on men to be “masculine” at all times causes many men to suffer privately and never seek help out of fear of being seen as “weak.” In reality, reaching out can be very difficult, and is actually a sign of courage and strength.

In addition, generational pain and trauma and toxic cycles of behavior often passed down from generation to generation compound with harmful personal and societal factors.

The number one reason people suffer emotionally is from having the belief that “I am not enough”. The belief that you are not enough is connected to the way you view others, the world, and yourself, and you may not even be consciously aware that you have this negative and false belief. 

In the United States, Blacks/African Americans represent approximately 12.1% of the population, and in my coaching practice, approximately 10% of my past and current clients were/are black, with about an equal amount of men and women. 

Among my Black and White clients, many of them either consciously or subconsciously are suffering with issues directly related to their childhood. Some of the most common issues my adult clients experienced in their childhoods are: 

  • Having critical, over-demanding, narcissistic or emotionally absent parents 

  • Not feeling safe as a child

  • An unstable living environment

  • Problems with learning and school-related activities

  • Abuse or significant trauma 

  • Bullying

  • Exposure to violence and substance use at a young age

Childhood trauma that occurred before the age of 12 is often the root cause for the deep-seated negative self-beliefs that adults have like “I am not enough”. 

Because the human brain doesn’t begin to develop the ability to think critically and logically until around the age of 12, children are like sponges. They take in experiences, behaviors, coping mechanisms, and attitudes without being able to process them critically or logically. Children believe in Santa Claus for this very reason. 

At home, if parents or family members exhibit dysfunctional family dynamics and unhealthy coping strategies, such as aggression, avoidance, neglect, substance abuse, or self-harm, children may adopt similar behavioral patterns, increasing their vulnerability to depression and other emotional issues. 

At school, Black children may experience the conscious or subconscious bias that some educators have regarding children and families of color. For example, the bias of Black children often being perceived as older than their White peers, sometimes referred to as “adultification,” can influence the expectations put on them by educators and other authority figures.

One powerful study regarding the adultification of Black children found that Black girls as young as five years old are viewed by adults as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers. Specifically, they found that Black girls are perceived as needing less nurturing, less protection, and more knowledge about adult topics compared to white girls of the same age. This type of bias can have serious consequences, including harsher treatment by authority figures and higher rates of disciplinary action in schools.

When a young child experiences trauma or abuse or grows up in situations that may seem insignificant to an adult, they tend to internalize stories about themselves, developing feelings of worthlessness and shame.

For example, if your father shames you for breaking a ceramic mug, and accuses you of causing all the problems in his life, you accept that as a 10 year old. A 10 year old doesn't think, “My dad has issues and he’s taking them out on me,” they think, “I have issues and I should be ashamed.” They then see themselves as “bad” rather than seeing the event or person creating the trauma as “bad” and feel that they are responsible for other people's emotions. Since they grow up living with these beliefs as if they are true, they don’t just go away when the child becomes an adult. Now they are an adult who feels fear and shame and doesn't even remember where that came from because they may not remember the original experience or situation. 

Negative cycles of behavior are often intertwined with social and economic disadvantages, such as poverty, unemployment, and lack of access to education and healthcare. These stressors can intensify family dysfunction and compound the risk of mental illness within vulnerable communities.

According to research, Black adults are less likely to receive treatment for mental and emotional well-being compared to White adults.

In 2018, only 33% of Black adults with mental illness received treatment compared to 43% of White adults. Barriers to mental health care, including financial constraint and  lack of insurance can prevent individuals from receiving timely interventions and support.

There are many organizations who are working towards equality for minorities at the systemic level, some of which I have linked below for access to additional research and resources to seek help.

While I am not in a position to influence changes at the systemic level, I can help individuals who are seeking help with overcoming anxiety, depression, trauma, stress, and other emotional issues in their own lives. 

I take an innovative approach to change that is based in Brain Science and Emotional Intelligence and begins with building an awareness of the root causes of the issues you are experiencing. Oftentimes in traditional talk therapy, a therapist and client spend a lot of time rehashing past experiences and tying them to current thoughts and behaviors, without actually getting to the root cause.

When I work with clients, the first thing we do is gain awareness of current patterns of thought and behavior that are negatively impacting their emotional well-being. 

Awareness means being present to witness the thoughts you are having. You may not even realize you are having the same negative recurring thoughts that are causing you to form negative beliefs about yourself and others. Most of the time, these negative thoughts that are on repeat in our brains are not based in reality. In order to process and overcome these subconscious thoughts and beliefs, we must become aware of them first. 

Then, we dig deep to find the root cause of those negative and self-sabotaging patterns. What experiences throughout their lives have caused these emotional issues?

Once they are aware of which past experiences are affecting their thoughts, beliefs, behaviors, expectations, and interpretations of past experiences, we are able to equip them with proven and relevant tools, techniques, and solutions for overcoming the emotional issues they are experiencing, whether it’s anxiety, depression, stress, trauma, or confidence or relationship issues. With the application of these powerful tools and strategies, my clients then begin experiencing rapid, sustainable results that help them Unlock Bold Change™ in their lives. 

If you or anyone you know is struggling with their Emotional Well-Being, reach out today and learn how you can gain a deeper understanding of your Emotional Well-Being and how to actively overcome your struggles with Coach Monique’s proven and trademarked tools, techniques, and strategies for Unlocking Bold Change™.

Resources for Help & Organizations to Follow:

Resources to Recover: 

Black Women’s Health Imperative:

Therapy for Black Girls:: 

Therapy for Black Men: 

The Century Foundation: 

The Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA):

Black Mental Wellness: 

Melanin & Mental Health: 


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