feature: the root magazine talks mental illness, and its relationship to being black and poor

November 17, 2014

Focusing on the town of Anacostia – a D.C. neighborhood with a black population of 94% – The Root magazine explores mental health in an article published yesterday – looking at the relationship between mental health, race and poverty. Read the insightful article HERE or check out some excerpts below. 

By Alexander Aplerku, AFROPUNK Contributor

It’s a cocktail of stressors that exacerbates the urgency of the need for mental-health care. But the people who need it generally can’t afford it. It’s an issue in Anacostia as much as it is in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and other metropolises where too many black people are suffocating under the pressures of being broke.

If you don’t have insurance, what do you do about your mental-health care?” she said. It’s been a running question since Streeter, a psychologist, founded the practice in 2004 specifically to help African Americans handle the systemic effects of poverty and racism. She’s seen an uptick in clientele since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the so-called Obamacare, which has helped her treat more people for depression—the condition she sees most often—and take on individuals and families. Such care can be life-changing for the people with the insight to seek it and the means to pay for it.

“I had a client just yesterday who said, ‘Yes, I have insurance, but I can’t appropriate $25 for the co-pay for therapy when I have three children. If I have to make a choice, the mental-health care will have to go, even though I need it.’ They have to make a decision to provide for the physical needs of their families,” Streeter said.

For lower-income and categorically middle-class people, preventive care is hard to come by. There’s little opportunity to intuit a need to talk to a professional therapist and address struggles early on. A condition either has to be present or escalate in a moderate to severe way before it can be treated. By then, it may have wreaked havoc on the individual directly suffering, disrupting his or her home life, job and source of income.