This year marks the first time that Juneteenth – the celebration of Black emancipation in the United States – is being observed as a federal holiday. Like emancipation itself, that’s a sign of progress, but it’s also a reminder of the work that still needs to be done.
Today, Black Americans continue to confront pressures beyond those faced by their fellow citizens. For instance, rates of depression among Black people are more persistent than among Whites, and Black adults are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than White adults.
When Black people seek help, one study found that physicians were 23 percent more verbally dominant and engaged in 33 percent less patient-centered communication with Black patients than with White patients. Lack of cultural competence among health care providers likely contributes to the under-diagnosis and/or misdiagnosis of mental illness in Black people, and this is compounded by language differences between patient and provider, the stigma of mental illness within the Black community, and the cultural presentation of symptoms.
One of the best ways to help support Black mental health is to become more knowledgeable about our nation’s history and more involved in our common culture.
Make Juneteenth an opportunity to acknowledge the Black experience in America. Look for literature, art, music, media and social events that provide an opportunity to learn about that experience. Seek out films, books, workshops, and educational opportunities that will expand – and even challenge – your understanding about race in America. And remember that, for those of us who are not Black, promoting Black mental health means amplifying and supporting, not dominating or appropriating.
Juneteenth is an American holiday, not just a Black American holiday. It’s a chance to come together, to listen and learn and respect. We hope you’ll honor and celebrate the strides we have made as a nation, while being clear-eyed about the fact that the journey is not complete.
Forge Health honors the Black experience in America, and wishes everyone a Happy Juneteenth!