African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience serious mental health issues than the general population, according to Integral Care, which provides mental health care in Travis County.
To reduce the stigma of mental health issues and increase access to care, the organization is sponsoring the 19th annual Central Texas African American Family Support Conference. The conference, which brings together mental health consumers and professionals, is being held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Palmer Events Center.
Vicky Coffee, program manager with the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health at UT Austin, has attended the conference annually since it started in 2000 and is emceeing the event this year. “Mental health is, of course, not solely an individual responsibility, but really is a product of community conditions,” she said.
Those community conditions, she said, include things like living in “challenging neighborhoods,” not having stable housing or living below the poverty line. Although these factors increase the likelihood of having mental health challenges, she added, only 25 percent of African-Americans will seek mental health care compared to 40 percent of their white counterparts.
“So, we recognize that in order to improve and enhance overall wellness in this specific population that we have to do a better job of educating and creating opportunities for awareness,” Coffee said.
The conference covers a wide variety of topics, including depression associated with “being black and queer,” supporting children with ADHD, maternal health and mortality, recovery from addiction, and military sexual trauma.
“Mental health is a concept that should be promoted beyond the walls of a health clinic,” Coffee said.