Emergency room visits for Black adults suffering from mental health concerns on the rise

If you break a bone you head to the emergency room.

When something breaks in the mind, believe it or not, many people are headed to the emergency room as well.

But according to a recent CDC report, from 2018 to 2020 Black adults visited the ER for mental health-related concerns at a rate nearly double the national average.

They had higher rates of emergency department visits compared to Hispanic and white adults across all categories of mental health disorders.

News 5 anchor Danita Harris has done numerous stories and podcasts on mental health issues in the Black community and this study intrigued her. She talked to a therapist about why this is happening and also a mother who shared her struggles, as well as her sons.

Tatianna Thompson says her mental health journey started as an adolescent living in an environment and a community that also had mental health issues.

“Being a bi-racial child in a predominantly black community. People discussing the texture of my hair or how I looked. At some point I was like you know, I was blaming my dad for you know, like not being black,” says Thompson.

This single mother of two boys is honest about her mental health struggles. She battles depression and uses counseling as a tool to help her cope.

“The attitude around mental health was like Jesus is the only way. You had to go to God or like, everyone didn’t believe that they needed counseling except for like me,” she says.

I spoke with a licensed therapist, Robyn Hill, and asked her why Black adults are more likely to visit the ER for mental health issues than any other race?

Hill says, “They’re feeling distressed and not knowing what the distress is, they go to the emergency room. A lot of times people are having very severe symptomology and then they can’t get an appointment for like a few weeks or a month out. We have children who are very , having very unstable moods and very disuptive behaviors and parents are getting frustrated or even ovherwelmed with how to handle these behaviors and then not knowing what to do to manage them. And so they’re going to the emergency room for help but that’s not necessarily the best place for them.”

Thompson’s son had an emergency room mental health experience.

“He was suicidal. He had a moment where I was fussing and yelling about something that he didn’t do. A task that he didn’t complete. He was really upset and he went upstairs and he called 911,” she says.

Thompson also shared that there is a mistrust of counseling professionals who aren’t Black.

She says they don’t understand the culture, they don’t understand the struggle.

Hill echoes the sentiment.

“Being afraid to go see someone comes from being mistreated. Working with our population of African Americans you have to be open to hearing what they have to say, allowing your patients to teach you about themselves, and not coming in there thinking you have all the answers and that is going to help bridge that gap and reduce that stigma for that community,” Hill says.

It’s clear more work needs to be done and it starts in the home. Thompson says she has normalized counseling in her home because she now sees the value in it

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