Why do we Recognize African American History in the Month of February?
Well, one reason is that February is the birth month of two prominent Black historical figures: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, to abolish slavery, and Frederick Douglass, born February 14, a leader of the abolitionist movement and famous author of antislavery writings. Since the deaths of Lincoln and Douglass, (in 1865 and 1895, respectively), the Black community has celebrated their contributions and the accomplishments of these two great individuals, but also the history and achievements of Black people in general.
As early as the 1940s, and with the ascendance of the Americal Civil Rights Movement, there was another rise of Black consciousness in the 1960s further establishing the celebrations of Black history in the month of February. In 1976, Gerald Ford urged the national recognition of Black History Month throughout the United States; all subsequent presidents would do the same.
African Americans & Mental Health
African American adults are 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population.
In a study published in the International Journal of Health Services, researchers found that Black young people were less able to get mental health services than white children and young adults.
25% of African Americans seek treatment for a mental health issues, compared to 40% of Caucasian individuals. Black individuals are often misdiagnosed, and they face more socioeconomic factors.
Adult Black/African Americans living below poverty are 3 times more likely to report severe psychological distress than those living above poverty.
African Americans teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide (8.3%) than are white teenagers (6.2%).
There are less African American mental health professionals. Only 6.2% of Psychologists, 5.6% of Advanced-practice Psychiatric Nurses, 12.6% of Social Workers, and 21.3% of Psychiatrists are members of minority groups.
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), only 3.7% of members in the American Psychiatric Association and 1.5% of members in the American Psychological Association are Black.
Prominent Black Folks Who Paved the Way in Mental Health
These notable black figures plus many more, have paved the way for Brown and Black people to receive adequate health care:
Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller
An African-American Psychiatrist who made significant contributions
to the study of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Paul Cornely
He developed public health initiatives aimed at reducing healthcare disparities
among the underserved.
Mamie Phipps Clark
He was the first African-American woman to earn a Doctorate degree in Psychology
from Columbia University with her groundbreaking research on the impact of race
on child development led to help end segregation.
Let’s Work to End the Stigma and Break Down Barriers
Black History Month is a celebration of all African Americans, however, every month of the year we should be working to break down barriers for all minorities. African Americans should have proper access to mental health and substance abuse resources and care, regardless of socioeconomic status. Awareness of the disparities and advocating for equal rights, are the starting blocks for real change within our communities.
As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “If you can't fly then run, if you can't run then walk, if you can't walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Ask yourself, “What can you do to move racial equality forward?”