In and out of Our Right Minds: The Mental Health of African American Women

In and out of Our Right Minds: The Mental Health of African American Women

In and out of Our Right Minds: The Mental Health of African American Women

In and out of Our Right Minds: The Mental Health of African American Women

Synopsis

African American women have commonly been portrayed as "pillars" of their communities -- resilient mothers, sisters, wives, and grandmothers who remain steadfast in the face of all adversities. While these portrayals imply that African American women have few psychological problems, the scientific literature and demographic data present a different picture. They reveal that African American women are at increased risk for psychological distress because of factors that disproportionately affect them, including lower incomes, greater poverty and unemployment, unmarried motherhood, racism, and poor physical health. Yet at the same time, rates of mental illness are low. This invaluable book is the first comprehensive examination of the contradictions between the strengths and vulnerabilities of this population. Using the contexts of race, gender, and social class, In and Out of Our Right Minds challenges the traditional notions of mental health and mental illness as they apply to African American women.

Excerpt

Common portrayals of African American women in the literature and popular media often depict them as [pillars] of the African American community. They are viewed as stalwart and nurturing mothers, sisters, wives, and grandmothers who are resilient in the face of all adversities. By implication, these portrayals suggest that African American women have few mental healthrelated problems. Yet at the same time the research literature and demographic data present a profile of African American women that by all accounts places them at increased risk for mental illness and psychological distress. Lower incomes, greater poverty and unemployment, unmarried motherhood, and poor physical health are factors that disproportionately affect African American women and that potentially can contribute to mental health problems. Given this demographic and social profile, it is amazing that African American women do not have higher rates of mental illness than those reported in epidemiologic field studies and in hospital admissions for mental illness. Accordingly, one of the objectives of this volume is to explore this apparent contradiction of strength and vulnerability.

No other publication of which we are aware has addressed the mental health of African American women on an empirical basis. Previous works on the health status of this group have covered factors that affect physical health but generally have omitted or have only cursorily dealt with factors associated with mental health. Although many African American literary scholars have written eloquently about the emotional and psychological experiences of African American women, their work has rarely encompassed empirical data. Such information is important, however, for making and changing public policies, as well as for establishing services to meet the mental health needs of African American women. Hence the impetus to pull together this volume.

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