Mental Health Facts and Fiction – Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Mental Health Facts and Fiction - Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

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This article will dispel common misconceptions about Black mental health care and educate our community about mental health disorders and their treatment.

A mass shooting is defined as having four or more victims killed or injured. In 2023, there have been more than 130 mass shootings so far. In the aftermath of a mass shooting, thoughts and prayers are often followed by a plea to increase support for people with mental illness. Only three to five percent of acts of violence in the community are attributed to people with mental illness.

Fact #1

The majority of the estimated 58 million people in the United States living with mental illness are never violent. People with mental disorders are more likely to be victims of crime.

Public messages associating violence and mental illness are stigmatizing and discourage people living with a mental health disorder from seeking treatment. Additionally, in the media, people with mental illnesses are often portrayed as comedic or violent images. This can negatively impact self-esteem, help-seeking behaviors, medication adherence, and overall recovery.


Fact #2

Sixteen percent of black Americans live with mental illness, and 22% of those people have serious mental illness. Yet 70% of black people with mental health issues do not receive mental health treatment. Ninety percent of black people over the age of 12 living with a substance use disorder do not receive treatment.

Fact #3

Black Americans are less likely than their white counterparts to die by suicide at any age. However, black teens are more likely to attempt suicide, a number that has increased in recent years. Between 1991 and 2019, self-reported suicide attempts increased by nearly 80% among black teens, while the number of attempts did not change significantly among individuals of other races and ethnicities.

Fact #4


Blacks are more often misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and less often diagnosed with mood disorders compared to whites with similar symptoms. In addition, they are offered therapy and medication at lower rates.

Fact #5

Less than four percent of psychiatrists in the United States and less than two percent of members of the American Psychological Association identify as black. Limited diversity among mental health professionals is a barrier to mental health care.

Fact #6

Tobacco-related disorders are a factor among the leading health conditions causing death among black Americans. As a result of extensive marketing campaigns, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars are preferred in black communities.


There are over 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke, and many cause cellular damage and chronic inflammation. Menthol allows a deeper inhalation and increases the amount of nicotine absorbed. In 2009, flavored additives were banned but menthol remained legal. Banning menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars will improve the health of black people.

Fact #7

Gun violence is more likely to be associated with suicide than homicide. The majority of suicides in the United States involve a firearm. Black and Hispanic Americans accounted for the largest increases in gun suicide rates from 2020 to 2021. A gun in a household increases the risk of suicide for everyone living in the household.

Fact #8

Black people with mental health issues are more likely to be in jail or jail than people of other races. One in five people in jail or jail have a diagnosable mental health condition.


Fact #9

The rate of opioid overdose among blacks is less than half that of white Americans.

Fact #10

There are many advocacy organizations encouraging black people to seek mental health treatment by changing the perception of mental illness.

You’re not alone. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call 988.

Dr. Dionne Hart is board certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine. She is an adjunct assistant professor of psychiatry at Mayo Clinic. In 2014, Dr. Hart was named Minnesota Psychiatrist of the Year. In 2017, she received the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Dr. Hart is an American Psychiatric Association delegate to the American Medical Association and a member of the board of directors of the Minnesota Medical Association (NMA). Dr. Hart is Region 4 Chairman of the NMA Board of Directors and President of the African American Physicians Association of Minnesota. In 2020, the Minnesota Physician magazine named her one of Minnesota’s 100 Most Influential Health Leaders. Twitter/Instagram: @lildocd.

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