Race is central to identity and lived experience. It touches much more than skin pigment; it plays a role in our societal norms, values, and traditions. Today, because of the historical enslavement of people from Africa, Black people live in every part of the globe. This dissemination of a large group of people with the same origin is referred to as the African/Black Diaspora. While all Black people are unique, this shared history explains why some experiences are common across the Black community. Although everyone experiences mental health, given the notable history and culture of the Black community in the U.S., it is important to acknowledge the specific strengths, methods of healing, and challenges faced by those who are part of it today. This Roadmap will do just that.

Whether you are Black or want to be more aware of the experiences of Black people, read on to learn more about Black mental health.

What is Black Mental Health? 

Mental health refers to your psychological, cognitive, and emotional wellbeing. Mental health status can be impacted by cultural and societal group identities such as race, ethnicity, religion and social class. Holding multiple marginalized identities puts you at increased risk for discrimination and other forms of oppression, which impact mental health. Focusing on Black mental health allows us to highlight these unique experiences. 

It is important to note that the mental health of Black people is not challenging because of that identity itself but because of the systemic issues faced by this community. Because of the enslavement of Black people, racialized oppression, marginalization and large-scale immigration throughout history, Black people live in a diaspora across the globe in and outside of Africa today. Black people are often impacted by racism, discrimination, and prejudice. Many hold more than one marginalized identity and may also experience classism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia. Despite these challenges, there are countless examples of thriving within Black communities across the Diaspora, which we will discuss here. 

Mental Health in Black Communities

Clinical Conditions

Today in the U.S., more than seven million Black and African American individuals are living with a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Yet, Black people are less likely to seek mental health support. Many Black people have learned to write off symptoms as ordinary or not mental health-related, which stems from a long history of stigma and fear of further discrimination. Understanding the warning signs of a mental health concern can help you find the appropriate care before symptoms get worse. If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, follow the links below for more information.

It is important to note that much of the psychological pain that exists within Black communities is due to systemic inequities. While changing these structures will take time and collective effort, it is not only possible but crucial to practice joy as a form of radical healing! Keep reading to learn more about how you can foster this for yourself.

Mental Health Condition


Black folks account for almost 20% of people with depression in the United States, yet they’re less likely to receive treatment.

warning signs

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness
  • Persistent low mood
  • Noticeable changes in appetite or weight
  • Loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

More Information: CTL and Psychiatry.org


Black adults are exposed to more risk factors for anxiety (i.e., racism, discrimination) than their white counterparts.

warning signs

  • Excessive worrying
  • Feeling nervous, tense, or unable to relax
  • Having a sense of dread 
  • Not feeling like yourself 

More Information: ADAA


Black adults living with a mental illness are at risk of using substances such as alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, and pain relievers.

warning signs

  • Substance use feels uncontrollable
  • Getting into legal trouble
  • Experiencing withdrawal
  • Inability to reduce or eliminate substance use
  • Neglecting responsibilities 

More Information: Recovery


Exposure to trauma is highest among Black Americans compared to all other racial groups. Due to socioeconomic disparities, Black people are more likely to be exposed to traumatic experiences. Some examples of traumatic experiences faced by the Black community are racism, discrimination, poverty, police brutality, and violence.

warning signs

  • Flashbacks or panic when reminded of the trauma
  • Becoming easily upset or angry
  • Extreme alertness
  • Avoidance of things related to the trauma
  • Nightmares or disturbed sleep

More Information: MHA


Black youth, age 5-12, are 2x more likely to die by suicide than their White peers. Suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts have been rising among Black and African American young adults, age 18-25, since 2018.

warning signs

  • Thinking or talking about  harming yourself or taking your life
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, or feeling like you are a burden 
  • Experiencing severe psychological pain

If you or someone you know is in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact Crisis Text Line by texting “COALITION” to 741741. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if there is an immediate safety concern.

More Information: AFSP, JED


Black Americans are 2x more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than white Americans. Many believe this is due to racist bias in the mental health field.

warning signs

  • Experiencing delusions or hallucinations
  • Disorganized thoughts or speech
  • Decreased ability to express emotion
  • Lack of motivation

More Information: Fountain House


The Black community faced and continues to face trauma both personally and systematically. Unfortunately, that trauma can be passed down through generations.

warning signs

  • Constant heightened state of awareness
  • Severe or intense feelings of grief that affect everyday functioning
  • Hopelessness
  • Fear of trusting others

More Information: APA

Tips for Fostering Black Mental Health

Whether you are beginning your mental health journey or are looking for new ideas, here are some tips on ways to foster Black mental wellbeing.

The Skill

The Why

Black joy has always been used to shift negative experiences and heal from trauma. Joy can also promote feelings of pride and help foster community.

The How

Black joy can look like laughing, dancing, exploring nature, creating, or praising. It is anything done freely without the deterrence of societal structures.

The Why

Having others around you who have had similar experiences can remind you that you’re not alone.

The How

Foster community, whether it’s online or in-person. You can do this by finding people with similar interests, attending community events, and interacting more with people you see daily.

The Why

Mental health journeys can feel scary, but you don’t have to walk that path alone. A part of building community is finding people to grow alongside you.

The How

Talk about your mental health journey when appropriate. This can look like a weekly mental health check-in with a friend.

The Why

We all know Black History Month is not long enough to celebrate everything the Black community has accomplished. Embracing Black history, people, and heritage is essential.

The How

Lift every voice and sing! Read, watch, and share entertainment that recognizes the vibrant aspects of Black culture and its contributions to art, literature, music, and film.

The Why

It can be exhausting to face the daily nuisances discussed above; sometimes, you must take time to recharge. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

The How

Engage in activities you enjoy, spend time with loved ones, and, most importantly, rest your mind and body.

The Why

When you’re a member of a marginalized group, you often receive messages that showing emotion is a sign of weakness, but the ability to be vulnerable with those close to you is actually a sign of strength!

The How

Once you identify your emotions, express them to others using “I feel” statements. You might be surprised that your loved ones want to listen to and support you.


The Why

Allowing yourself to take up space, even in predominantly white settings, can feel empowering.

The How

When safe, consider speaking and living your truth, whether that’s in your appearance, your behavior, or your mannerisms.

The Why

Sometimes seeking mental health support can be scary, especially if it’s for a clinical mental health concern. Just know that mental health professionals are there to support you, and there are accessible ways to connect with them.

The How

Finding a licensed mental health clinician can be an overwhelming process, so take it one step at a time. You might start by looking up local mental health organizations, the mental health departments of hospitals, or online therapist directories. If you are looking for a Black provider, you also may want to check out directories specifically for the Black community.


Black Mental Health Resources

Download a PDF of This Roadmap


Check out the Mental Health Coalition’s Resource Library for additional information on boosting mental wellbeing.

Resource Library

Want to learn more? While this Roadmap is just a starting point on Black mental health, there are so many resources out there, and you can find more information specific to the Black community below.

AAKOMA Project

An organization whose mission is to empower youth and their families to seek help managing their mental health; Founded by MHC Program Board Member Dr. Alfiee.


A collective of Black psychologists whose mission is to promote the advancement of African psychology and influence social change.

Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM)

A non-profit movement dedicated to creating a world where there are no barriers to Black healing.

Black Girls Smile

A non-profit organization dedicated to empowering & supporting the mental health of Black girls & young women.

Black Mental Health Alliance

An organization developing and promoting culturally-relevant educational forums, trainings, and referral services for the health and wellbeing of Black people.

Black Mental Wellness

A corporation providing information about mental health topics, increasing the diversity of mental health professionals, and decreasing mental health stigma in the Black community.


A brand & trust creating & amplifying stories that showcase what Black Men & Boys can do.

The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation

A non-profit with the mission to improve mental health in Black communities by building culturally-competent resources, programs, and education across the country.

Center for Healing Racial Trauma

An organization whose goal is to heal racial trauma through love, liberation, equity, and creativity.

The Defensive Line

A nonprofit on a mission to end the epidemic of youth suicide, especially for young people of color, by transforming the way we communicate and connect about mental health.

Loveland Foundation

An organization whose mission is to promote mental health healing for Black women and girls. 

Mental Health America

A non-profit organization dedicated to helping people live mentally healthier lives.

Mental Wealth Alliance

An organization designed to proliferate pathways for addressing the severely unmet and underserved emotional needs of Black people.


The nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.

Open Path Collective

A psychotherapy collective that seeks to make therapy accessible by offering services at a reduced rate.

Silence the Shame

An organization whose mission is to empower and educate communities on mental health and wellness.

The Steve Fund

An organization whose focus is to support the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people of color.

Therapy for Black Girls

An organization committed to creating mental health accessibility for Black women and girls.

Therapy for Black Men

An organization committed to breaking the stigma for Black men seeking mental health support.


Lead author

Khyia Ward, M.Ed.  


Contributing authors

Naomi Torres-Mackie, PhD

Anna Marie Fennell, M.Ed


Special Thanks — 

Zoey FitzGerald Kidwell, MHC Intern

Lauren Carson, Black Girls Smile

Annelle Primm, MD, MPH, The Steve Fund

Tramaine EL‑Amin, MA & Terence Fitzgerald, PhD, EdM, MSW, National Council for Mental Wellbeing


If you or a friend need urgent assistance, call 911 immediately, or take your friend directly to the emergency room. If you feel it’s safe, stay with your friend, or find someone to stay with them until help arrives.

Call 911


You are never alone. Help is always available. For immediate support 24/7, reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting COALITION to 741741, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. It’s free and it’s highly confidential, unless it’s essential to contact emergency services to keep you or your friend safe.


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