Local psychiatrists and psychologists say black men in the East are underserved when it comes to their mental health needs.
Two reasons for the trend are the stigma still associated with mental illness and a lack of diversity among mental healthcare providers.
“The goal is to reflect the actual population,” Dr. Toni Johnson, East Carolina University Physicians psychiatrist, said. “If we talk about [the] local community here, then we are definitely far behind [in] reflecting the community.”
Psychotherapist Dr. Leon Johnson (no relation) said he’s one of a handful of black male therapists in the area.
“We don’t have a lot of resources in regard to who we would like to talk with or feel comfortable with so the choices are limited,” Dr. Leon Johnson said. “That’s probably one of the reasons why I’m glad I did end up in this field.”
The National Alliance on Mental Illness reported black men and women are more likely to experience social circumstances that increase their risk for mental illness, but just two percent of psychiatrists and psychologists are black.
Dr. Toni Johnson wanted to reverse the trend by creating a pipeline for minority students as young as high school age to get interested in the mental health field.
“I think it’s very powerful just to go and speak to groups about what we do,” Dr. Toni Johnson said. “More importantly for under-represented minorities, for African Americans, for them to see an African-American woman.”