Anxiety And Depression In Afro-Americans A major cause of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety in individuals is stress. Defined stress is an internal response caused by the application of a stressor or anything that requires coping behaviour. Forexample the pressure of a job, supporting a family or getting an education that can result in depression and anxiety. Individuals and groups that have numerous resources or other coping mechanisms are better suited for coping with stress than are those who lack such resources. As a result, social and economic circumstances in North America suggest that the black and Latino communities have a higher risk for developing mental disorders than does the non-black make up of the United States.
Hence this paper will attempt to demonstrate how due to socio-economic differences such as money, racism and increased exposure to violence, blacks have a greater chance to develop mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Some definitions: Stress, Depression & Anxiety Stress is everywhere in our lives and it can be found in two forms. The life of Afro-Americans is filled with both eu stress and distress, but it is the high rate of distress due to socio-economic circumstances that are responsible for higher rates of depression and anxiety amongst them. Depression is an emotional state characterized by extreme sadness, gloomy ruminations, feelings of worthlessness, loss of hope, and often apprehension, while anxiety is a generalized feeling of fear and apprehension. The number of reported cases combining both depression and anxiety with Afro-Americans has dramatically increased since the civil rights movement, when scientists began recording such causal relationships.
In addition, statistics show that the rate of violence demonstrates a positive relationship of mental health disorders within the black community. Studies by Bell, Dixie-Bell and Thompson show that Afro-Americans have a 36% higher chance of developing depression than do non-blacks (Bell, Dixie-Bell, & Thompson, p. 53). It is felt that a portion of these results can be attributed to the high incidence of violence and exposure within the black community. Economic Distress Poverty and unemployment are rampant in Afro-American communities in the United States. Approximately 65% of the black community in the U.
S. live in poverty or are unemployed (Bell et al. , p. 53). In comparison to other ethnic groups, this is the highest rate with the exception of the Latino community at 68.
7%. The closest group above the blacks are the Chinese at 35%. Not only are most blacks poor and unemployed but, the future does not look promising in terms of job opportunities for Afro-Americans. This rampant spread of poverty within the black community causes great distress within the family unit. Parents are unable to provide for their children basic necessities for living, such as food or proper shelter. In effect this distress causes individuals to demonstrate extreme sadness, feelings of worthiness and loss of hope.
Their great anxiety is because there is, 'no apparent way out of the situation.' (Friedman, p. 77) Socio-Cultural Distress Despite the feeling that some substantial progress in terms of race relations has been made since the civil rights movement of the 1960's, 'afro-americans still feel that they are at the bottom of the race poll.' (Fenton, p. 13) Much racism and prejudice still exists in America today and with occurrence of certain events, racial tensions are definitely increasing. Forexample both the Rodney King and O. J.
Simpson trials, ignited intense debate amongst the population about racial issues. Despite the conviction of Rodney Kings attackers and the acquittal of O. J. Simpson, blacks feel as though justice was not served. 'White America is still appalled at the destruction the King verdict caused.' (Hart on, p. 89) The reaction to the results of these two cases was caused by distress within the black community.
In addition, it is this distress that will cause blacks to suffer from high rates of anxiety. Studies show that Afro-Americans demonstrate higher levels of fear and apprehension. When asked what their anxiety was caused by, Afro-American teens said that their fear comes from fear of dying before their 21 birthday and fear of losing a loved one to drugs or gang violence. When presented with the same question, white teens responded their greatest fears were not getting into grad school and not being considered popular at school. Thus it is evident, that the concerns of black teens are more about, 'actual survival than they are about their image or position in life'. (Friedman, p.
63) However, it is important to realize that this does not mean that white teens can't develop high levels of anxiety, just that the fear for ones life may be considered more alarming than ones public image. Violence Exposure Studies by Bell and Jenkins (1991) found that, Afro-American teens living in the inner-city have high levels of exposure to violence and this exposure causes them to demonstrate high levels of stress and anxiety. There sults found that by the age of 16, black teens had them selves been or knew somebody that had been shot, shot at, killed, beaten, robbed with a weapon, stabbed or raped. (Friedman, p. 87) Of 13 girls who had been interviewed for this study, 11 had been raped. 83% of the teen had witnessed severe violence in the community.
Conversely, the same study done in a suburban area found that only 21% of teen had actually witnessed extreme violence or known somebody to have been a victim. However, it is important to note that in the suburban case, of the students that had or new someone involved, '16% were afro-american'. (Friedman, p. 89) Evidently, blacks living in the States have a much higher exposure to violence than do non-blacks. This in turn leads to higher levels of anxiety blacks than in whites. Additional Factors...
In addition to examining the relationship between socio-economic circumstances and violence exposure, researchers wanted to see if their were another factors that contributed to higher rates of depression and anxiety in blacks. An examination found that higher levels of distress were correlated with alcohol and illicit drug use. Also, results showed a positive relationship for poor academic performance in school with exposure to violence and low socio-economic status (under poverty line). Again black youths demonstrated higher levels than in white youths for incarceration and pregnancy which were also listed as major stressor's for black youths. Furthermore, black teens reported they did not feel safe at home, in their neighbourhood or at school. Therefore it is clear that blacks demonstrate a higher risk for developing a mental health disorder such as depression and or anxiety than do white youths.
What should we do? There is a great deal of information and research on the topic of depression and anxiety in psychology. Much work has also been devoted to the causes and treatments of these two behaviour's. Unfortunately, however not much work has been devoted to mental health from the Afro-American perspective. In order to reduce and control the rate of depression and anxiety within the Afro-American community much more research must be done in this field. Particularly this research must include Canadian samples because the effect that violence exposure and socio-economic stressor's have on black Canadian is bound to differ than that of Afro-Americans slightly. In addition, research shows that blacks require different treatments than whites and that black patients react differently to the same drugs given to white patients.
Conclusion The experience of the Afro-American patient is different than that of the white patient. Not only does the black patient have to deal with stereotypes as a patient but the causes of his disorders also differ than that of a white patient. Because of this, it is important that the health profession beware that Afro- American patients require a different kind of treatment than white patients. Furthermore, in depth research into this epidemic may provide blacks with new coping strategies thus reducing the amount of stressor's in their live.
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