This paper will describe how anxiety disorders among African Americans in Brooklyn can be recognized, treated and even prevented. In regard to the public health goals in the Take Care New York 2016 Preliminary Plan, one of the goals is to promote mental health. Recognizing and assisting the African American community in Brooklyn with anxiety disorders is an important component of mental health promotion. This plan looks specifically to the mental health of children and adolescents and provides opportunities for intervention to help the community. The Take Care New York priorities include reducing alcohol and substance abuse in conjunction with promoting mental health and anxiety disorders are prevalent aspects of mental health from which many African Americans suffer.
Anxiety disorders have been identified as the most commonly occurring mental disorder in the United States. Among anxiety disorders, there are a number of specific subsets including general anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorders and other phobias (Hunter & Schmidt, 2010). General anxiety disorder is characterized by extreme amounts of debilitating worry that occurs almost daily for several consecutive months. PTSD is a more widely recognized disorder in the anxiety subset where debilitating anxiety manifests as a result of an experienced trauma. OCD, on the other hand, involves both uncontrolled obsessions and compulsions that impair a person’s everyday life. Panic disorders are similar to GAD, but involve intense and sudden onset of fear which includes a specific number and set of physical and cognitive symptoms. Social anxiety disorder can be equally as debilitating but is more like a type of phobia in which a person has a prolonged and inhibiting fear of being negatively judged by others in social situations. Phobias come in a wide variety and are specific to certain objects or situations. People with phobias will experience anxiety when they come in contact with the object of their fear and actively avoid any contact with it (Hunter & Schmidt, 2010).
For the African American community, specifically, anxiety disorders appear to be quite prevalent and manifest in ways that do differ from other ethnic groups. Culture has been identified as having a certain degree of influence on anxiety disorders and both current and historical sociocultural influences have been identified in how anxiety disorders present among African Americans (Heurtin-Roberts, Snowden, & Miller, 1997). For example, according to research, African Americans are more likely to suffer from panic disorders and phobias when compared to the general population. The ways in which symptoms manifest in this demographic are also different than other ethnic groups and important to consider. African Americans will have a higher occurrence of paranoia, violence, delusions, and hallucinations and unfortunately, are also less likely to utilize mental health services (Heurtin-Roberts, Snowden, & Miller, 1997).
There are a number of risk factors that are involved in anxiety disorders which are not only detrimental to the well-being of the individual, but to the community as a whole. In a study on risk factors for anxiety, researchers identified childhood abuse, minimal education, traumatic family environments, low self-esteem, and familial history of major depressive disorder to be among the most prominent risk factors in the development of anxiety disorders. They also discovered that losing a parent at an early age places children at an increased risk of developing PTSD. Furthermore, teens with conduct disorder are at risk of developing social anxiety disorder or phobias in adulthood (Blanco, Rubio, Wall, Wang, Jiu, & Kendler, 2014).
Another important risk factor to consider is that anxiety disorders are quite commonly comorbid with major depressive disorder (Blanco, et al., 2014). In fact, the comorbidity of these disorders are mediated by specific underlying variables such as those mentioned above. So, all of these traumatic and adverse characteristics can facilitate not just anxiety disorder, but other accompanying mental health disorders, as well. It is well known that individuals who suffer from depression are at an increased risk of substance abuse and the development of suicidal thoughts. These facets of anxiety disorder have major implications for the community in that the prevalence of substance abuse is often associated with high rates of crime and violence, while suicide can negatively impact the lives of more than just the victim (Blanco, et al., 2014).
There are potential intervention methods that can be implemented in an effort to both prevent and successfully treat anxiety disorders among the African American community in Brooklyn. One such method could be to implement educational programs for both the community and professionals. The focus of these programs would be to provide people with the needed tools to understand and recognize anxiety disorders as a mental illness, educate them on how it affects their lives, and inform them of ways in which they can seek treatment. In doing so it will help individuals appropriately respond to the signs and symptoms of mental illness (“Take Care New York 2016,” 2015). It will also better enable medical staff to recognize warning signs and direct patients to the appropriate care provider. Not only that, but if these educational programs help African Americans become better aware of the risk factors, they can potentially avert the development of these disorders by eliminating troublesome environmental components.
In order to effectively reduce this health problem in the community there will need to be city-wide policies in place that mandate anxiety education, as well as community programs readily available in schools and community centers. It will also be important for health care service providers to implement educational programs aimed directly at the African American community. It would also be beneficial to create and advertise support groups where help can be obtained free of charge. With this demographic being less likely to seek out mental health services, it will also be necessary for these programs to provide information on convenient methods of assistance and mental health first aid to promote knowledge (“Take Care New York 2016,” 2015).
A second potential intervention method would be to implement more comprehensive healthcare to include behavioral and mental health benefits (“Take Care New York 2016,” 2015). As these services are often under-covered it can be assumed that it is a factor in why there is such a strong prevalence of anxiety disorders among African Americans. In order to effectively intervene in the Brooklyn community, healthcare benefits can be offered to include these services for individuals and their families in order to make it more financially feasible to seek treatment. Major companies in the community can adopt more comprehensive insurance plans for their employees and state or local regulations can be developed to mandate these benefits be offered. This would enable both working and non-working members of the community to obtain insurance coverage for mental health services for not only themselves, but their children as well. Perhaps with better coverage, anxiety disorders will not continue to develop within the community but be treated earlier and possibly even prevented by means of therapy and other mental health services. It will also be key for employers to notify their staff of the mental healthcare benefits available to them and include covered benefits related to screening for mental illness (“Take Care New York 2016,” 2015).
Anxiety disorders among the African American community in Brooklyn are not only a widespread concern, but they are highly differential from those of other demographics. It is important to recognize the risk factors, warning signs, and symptomology of anxiety disorders as well as the negative impact they have on the individual and the community. The Take Care New York 2016 Preliminary Plan includes a focus on mental health services and prevention and is intent on addressing this need in the community. By implementing educational programs and increasing medical benefits as interventions to encompass mental and behavioral health, this issue can be better managed and potentially become less prominent in the community.
- Blanco, C., Rubio, J., Wall, M., Wang, S., Jiu, C. J., & Kendler, K. S. (2014). Risk factors for anxiety disorders: common and specific effects in a national sample. Depression And Anxiety, 31(9), 756-764. doi:10.1002/da.22247
- Heurtin-Roberts, S., Snowden, L., & Miller, L. (1997). Expressions of anxiety in african americans: Ethnography and the epidemiological catchment area studies. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 21(3), 337-63. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1005389007836
- Hunter, L. R., & Schmidt, N. B. (2010). Anxiety psychopathology in african american adults: Literature review and development of an empirically informed sociocultural model. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2), 211. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/203451597?accountid=8289
- Take Care New York 2016: An Agenda for Healthier New York City. (2015). NYC Health. Retrieved from http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/about/children_and_youth.shtml