A major cause of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety in individuals is stress. Defined stress is an internal response caused by the application of a stressor or anything that requires coping behaviour. For example the pressure of a job, supporting a family or getting an education are stressors that can result in depression and anxiety. Individuals and groups that have numerous resources or other coping mechanisms are better suited for coping with stress than are those who lack such resources. As a result, social and economic circumstances in North America suggest that the black and Latino communities have a higher risk for developing mental disorders than does the non-black make up of the United States. Hence this paper will attempt to demonstrate how due to socio-economic differences such as money, racism and increased exposure to violence, blacks have a greater chance to develop mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Some definitions: Stress, Depression & Anxiety
Stress is everywhere in our lives and it can be found in two forms. The life of Afro-Americans is filled with both eustress and distress, but it is the high rate of distress due to socio-economic circumstances that are responsible for higher rates of depression and anxiety amongst them.
Depression is an emotional state characterized by extreme sadness, gloomy ruminations, feelings of worthlessness, loss of hope, and often apprehension, while anxiety is a generalized feeling of fear and apprehension. The number of reported cases combining both depression and anxiety with Afro- Americans has dramatically increased since the civil rights movement, when scientists began recording such causal relationships. In addition, statistics show that the rate of violence demonstrates a positive relationship of mental health disorders within the black community. Studies by Bell, Dixie-Bell and Thompson show that Afro-Americans have a 36% higher chance of developing depression than do non-blacks (Bell, Dixie-Bell, & Thompson, p.53). It is felt that a portion of these results can be attributed to the high incidence of violence and exposure within the black community.
Poverty and unemployment are rampant in Afro-American communities in the United States. Approximately 65% of the black community in the U.S. live in poverty or are unemployed (Bell et al., p.53). In comparison to other ethnic groups, this is the highest rate with the exception of the Latino community at 68.7%. The closest group above the blacks are the Chinese at 35%. Not only are most blacks poor and unemployed but, the future does not look promising in terms of job opportunities for Afro-Americans. This rampant spread of poverty within the black community causes great distress within the family unit. Parents are unable to provide for their children basic necessities for living, such as food or proper shelter. In effect this distress causes individuals to demonstrate extreme sadness, feelings of worthiness and loss of hope. Their great anxiety is because there is, "no apparent way out of the situation."(Friedman, p.77)
Despite the feeling that some substantial progress in terms of race relations has been made since the civil rights movement of the 1960's, "afro- americans still feel that they are at the bottom of the race poll." (Fenton, p.13) Much racism and prejudice still exists in America today and with occurrence of certain events, racial tensions are definitely increasing. For example both the Rodney King and O.J. Simpson trials, ignited intense debate amongst the population about racial issues. Despite the conviction of Rodney Kings attackers and the acquittal of O.J. Simpson, blacks feel as though justice was not served. "White America is still appalled at the destruction the King verdict caused."(Harton, p.89) The reaction to the results of these two cases was caused...