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Money problems, health problems, and the loss of loved ones are all sources of stress, worry, and sadness. During stressful times, feeling sad, worried, or anxious for a little while is normal. But it's not normal to feel this way a lot of the time. Ongoing feelings of sadness and numbness can be signs of depression. Constant worrying that won't go away can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. These feelings are not just "in your head" or a sign of weakness. Mental health problems, such as anxiety and mood disorders, are real illnesses, just like diabetes or heart disease. They can cause changes in your brain and body chemistry.
Treatment can help people with mental health problems to feel better. But only 1 in 3 African-Americans who need mental health care get it. This may be partly due to lack of trust in the medical community. Or African-American women may not know the symptoms of mental health problems or know when to get help. Some people wrongly view mental illness as a sign of weakness or a loss of faith. Other reasons could include not having insurance or not being able to get to the doctor. No matter the reason, lack of mental health care means that African-Americans bear a high burden of disability related to mental health problems.
Getting help is important. Unlike most disabling physical illnesses, mental illness often begins early in life. In fact, recent research shows that African-American teenage girls are at high risk for suicide. The sooner a mental health problem is discovered, the better the chance for a full recovery.
Remember: Mental illnesses are real, and treatment can help. If emotional problems are interfering with work, school, relationships, or home life, see a doctor.
Content last updated: May 18, 2010.