Blacks shy away from mental health assistance
death of actor
John, coming just a
week after he
light on mental
exposing a topic often ignored among
St. John, 52, wasn't the stereotypical white male or even a white female
often depicted in the media as suffering from a mental illness. Statistically,
however, African Americans are 20
percent more likely to report having
serious psychological distress than
whites, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office of Minority Services. Yet, adult
African Americans, especially those
with higher levels of education, are less
likely to seek mental health services
than their white counterparts.
St. John, who was an African-American, played Neil Winters
on the CBS daytime soap opera "The
Young and the Restless." He was found
dead Feb. 3 at a home in the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles. He
lost his son to suicide in 2014. Some
reports cite grief as a potential fact in
the actor's own death.
Mental illness is still a taboo in
the black community, said Briana
Bell, a senior majoring in communication studies with a concentration
in theatre arts performance here at
"They already try to make our
people look unstable and violent, so
adding a form of mental illness to
them will only make society look at
us with an even more negative light
and that's not fair," the 22-year-old
She said that she has struggled
with mental illness since the age of 13.
"There [are] high days [that] are really
high, yet the low days are really low.
Like myself, sometimes I've struggled
with my disorder so much that I didn't
want to leave my bed and I just wanted
to give up," she said.
Bell said she learned to cope
with her mental health by visiting a
counselor. "Always stay strong and
remember things will get better," she
said, while calling for ways to increase
awareness about mental illness among
the public and, in particular, within the black community in an effort
to eliminate the negative viewpoint
African-Americans have about seeking
Bell also says
health awareness should
not be taken
"Being educated brings
and it allows
the community to open their closed minds and
accept those who are different."
She also said that having more
awareness will offer new gateways to
those who may be battling with mental
illness. "Mental illness has a different
effect on everyone who struggles with
it. Some have a better control of it than
others. This affects how they feel, how
they function through the day [...]"
Amanda Perez, a licensed mental
health counselor, offers counseling to
individuals here on campus. She also
provides group therapy to students
who struggle with substance abuse. Perez began her career in 2013 at Stewart
Marchman Act Behavioral Healthcare,
where she worked as a behavioral
technician while earning her master's
degree in mental health counseling.
She has been working at B-CU since
Perez said that mental health awareness can normalize something seen as
taboo. "It is so difficult for people to
talk about their emotional well-being,
their battles with depression, anxiety,
bipolar disorder" and the like, she said,
adding that getting the word out can
also help individuals receive aid for
disorders that are treatable.
Perez said there are a number of
students on campus who struggle with
"I've worked with several students
who struggle with adjustment, chronic
depression and anxiety." She adds that
others who suffer with depression and
anxiety, have a difficult time doing
things they once enjoyed.
Students with mental illness often
are reluctant to go out to social
events, spend time with friends
and participate in extracurricular activities. Other telltale signs
can include failure to take care of
hygiene and personal appearance,
according to Perez.
Perez said she thinks that the
mental health taboo in the African-American community stems
from fear and lack of trust. "I think
people are afraid of being labeled
'crazy' when in reality, most people, at some point in their life have
dealt with mental illness," she said.
She said, in the attempt to
spread counseling services with the
students, her office confronts such
stigmas with the students.
When the counselors ask the
students about their family's viewpoints on counseling, she said, the
feedback is generally either "pray
about it," or "family problems are
not discussed outside the home."
Reports note that most African-Americans families depend on
religion, social outlets, and other
coping mechanisms rather than
going to health care professionals.
This mindset has become a
generational thing, Perez said. "The
'don't talk, don't tell' mentality has
been passed down from generation
to generation, and unless we begin
to normalize seeking help, not
much will change."
Perez also said that while counseling is not necessarily a quick
fix to life's problem, it can provide
students the skills needed to live a
The campus counseling services are located in the infirmary.
For more information or to make
an appointment, please contact
Nadine Heusner, Assistant Vice
President, Disabilities, at 386-481-
2170 or email her at heusnern@