Presentation: Mental illness in the African American community

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. On Saturday, July 23, at 10 a.m., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA), Omicron Upsilon Omega Chapter; the Southwest Connecticut affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI); The Fairfield County (CT) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated; and Union Baptist Church will jointly present Sharing Hope: Understanding Mental Health, a 1½-hour structured presentation specifically tailored for the African American audience, at Union Baptist Church, 805 Newfield Avenue in Stamford. The event is free and open to the public.

Mental illness affects one in four adults in America. Although rates of mental illness are similar in all population groups, experts including the U.S. Surgeon General have noted that African Americans and other minorities:

  • Are less likely to receive a diagnosis and treatment for their illness;

  • Have less access to mental health services;

  • Often receive poorer quality mental health care; and

  • Are underrepresented in mental health research.

“Stigma and lack of information too often prevent African Americans from seeking mental health treatment,” said Dr. Allison Downer, a psychiatrist and AKA member. “Sharing Hope will help foster a dialogue about mental illness so that our community can create a compassionate environment for all those affected by these illnesses.”

The presentation will be facilitated by two individuals directly affected by mental health issues. They will share their experiences and perspectives and the hope and realities of recovery. The audience will learn about symptoms, treatment and available support.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and The Links, Incorporated, are international service organizations founded by African American women who are committed to the survival of African Americans and persons of African descent. Union Baptist Church is the oldest African American Baptist Church in lower Fairfield County, Connecticut. They are partnering with NAMI, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, to improve the quality of life for African American individuals and families impacted by mental illness.