What percentage of psychiatrists and therapists are Black? What percentage of psychiatrists and therapists are men? What percentage of psychiatrists and therapists are Black men? This is not a new question but a question that remains answered, nonetheless?
The ongoing ambivalence surrounding Black men and mental health has reached peak levels over time. Though the numbers have risen concerning more Black men going to therapy, there is still heavy resistance. Looking beyond the reasons of why Black men do not go to therapy, the possibility of little to no representation of Black men in the mental health field should be closely examined.
According to research from the American Psychological Association, in 2015 86 percent of psychologists in the U.S workforce were White, and 4 percent were Black/African American. In 2016, 68% of psychology doctorates awarded were white and 5% were Black/African American. What could influence this data?
Looking at the facts, in order to be a therapist or psychologist, an advanced degree (a Master’s or Ph.D.) must be earned. This begs the question of how many African American male students major in psychology and then continue to graduate school? Those that then graduate with a Master’s, how many of them continue to garner a Ph.D.?
Beyond the mere representation gap of Black men in the mental health field, it becomes the responsibility of the larger community to make the mental health field available for Black boys. Looking at the facts, Black boys are often more likely to be labelled or diagnosed with mental illnesses that marginalize them socially and culturally. Could this be one of the reasons why there is a disparity of Black men in the mental health field? If Black boys have bad experiences with mental health, they could be less likely to engage with anything that pertains to mental health, such as majoring in psychology. This also is reinforced by the hypermasculine agenda which forbids addressing depression and anxiety.
Black men are culturally marked as “damaged goods” by therapists and psychiatrists, many of whom could be white, and are not allowed to address their mental health in their own community. This double edged sword has produced a major gap in representation of Black males in the mental health career field.