BIPOC Mental Health Facts & Statistics
Growing up Black or indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC), you can find sources of stress everywhere because of institutional and systemic racism, biases, and microaggressions. These subtle behaviors, automatic or unconscious, raise blood pressure, increase hypervigilance, and erode the mental health of BIPOC individuals every day. Today, we share facts and statistics related to the mental health of individuals in the BIPOC community to educate the public, raise awareness, and support health equity.
Black mental health statistics
In 2020, following the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests, public awareness of discrimination and racism increased, and rightfully so, since 44% of Americans identifying as nonwhite reported discrimination as a significant source of daily stress. In 2019, this number was 38% . See how high levels of stress impact mental health for Black people living in the U.S.
Of Black Americans, 48% report discrimination as a stressor in their lives, the highest rate of all races questioned .
Of Black/African American adults (non-Hispanic), 17.3% experience a mental illness annually .
Illicit drug use is slightly higher for Blacks in the U.S., compared to other groups, at 12.4% .
In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for African Americans aged 15-24, with Black men being four times more likely to die by suicide than Black women .
Non-Hispanic Blacks are nearly twice as likely to report feelings of sadness compared to non-Hispanic whites .
Black patients are diagnosed with schizophrenia spectrum disorders more frequently, and depression less frequently, compared with similar white patients. This apparent misdiagnosis of schizophrenia may lead to inadequate recognition and treatment of mood disorders .
Of mixed/multiracial adults (non-Hispanic), 35.8% experience mental illness annually, the largest percent of any group questioned .
A study by Mental Health America found that multiracial people are most likely to screen positive or at-risk for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance use, compared to others .
Black Americans don’t simply experience more mental health challenges than white Americans. They also experience many physical health conditions in greater numbers. The death rates for Black Americans from multiple medical conditions (including heart disease, stroke, cancer, asthma, flu, diabetes, and HIV/AIDs) are higher than for whites. Blacks in the U.S. also have a shorter life expectancy .
Income and mental health
Racial inequality has negatively impacted Black Americans’ economic security. A result of this financial strain, combined with the stigma of mental illness and distrust of the predominately white medical field, is that Black Americans are less likely to see doctors or take medications for their mental health concerns than white Americans.
In 2019, the Census Bureau reported that median household income for non-Hispanic Blacks was $43,771 compared to $71,664 for non-Hispanic whites .
Poverty is associated with increased mental health woes. Black Americans living below the poverty level are twice as likely to report serious psychological distress .
While the poverty rate for Black Americans was at its lowest in 2019 at 18.8%, Black Americans are still more likely to live in poverty compared to Hispanics (any race), Asians, and non-Hispanic whites .
Only 37.1% of Black/African American adults (non-Hispanic) and 43% of mixed/multiracial adults (non-Hispanic) pursue treatment for mental health conditions, compared to 51.8% of white adults (non-Hispanic) .
Black adults in the U.S. are less likely to be covered by health insurance than whites .
Black youth mental health statistics
The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on several health inequities related to race. It also exposed a mental health crisis raging in the U.S., with younger individuals experiencing more mental distress than other groups. BIPOC individuals born into Generation Z (between 1997 and 2012) face an increased risk of mental health concerns.
In 2020, young adults in Gen Z (age 18-23), particularly Gen Z females, reported higher stress levels than all other generations .
Black female high schoolers are 60% more likely than non-Hispanic white females to attempt suicide .
Black youth are more likely than white youth to be diagnosed with ADHD. They are less likely to be diagnosed with mood disorders .
In a retrospective chart review of hospitalized adolescents, Black youth were significantly more commonly diagnosed with conduct disorder than white youth .
Black LGBTQ+ mental health statistics
Health inequities are also pronounced in the Black LGBTQ+ community.
Black gay and bisexual men are more affected by HIV than any other group in the U.S.; in 2018, they accounted for 26% of total new HIV diagnoses and 37% of new diagnoses among all gay and bisexual men, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .
Queer women, particularly Black queer women, are less likely to have regular preventative care such as mammography and cervical cancer screenings, even though these screenings can save lives .
Black transgender women experience profound health and wellness inequality. An estimated 44% of Black transgender women are living with HIV .
Transgender women of color are also disproportionately targeted in violent hate crimes and make up the majority of transgender murder victims .
Native/indigenous mental health statistics
“Native” and “indigenous” are terms used to describe groups who lived in the U.S. prior to European colonization. An estimated 100 million indigenous people lived in this country prior to colonization. Today, about 5.2 million people in the U.S. identify as American Indian or Alaska Native alone or combined with another race, making up about 1.7% of the U.S. population .
Forced assimilation was traumatic for native and indigenous peoples, leading to multi-generational trauma. The effects of political and economic marginalization related to colonization are still felt today, impacting the mental health of indigenous people .
Of American Indian/Alaska Native adults in the U.S., 19% reported a mental illness in the last year .
Death rates for suicide in American Indian/Alaska Native individuals (males and females) age 15-24 are more than double the rate of white people of the same age .
In 2019, death rates for suicide in American Indian/Alaska Native females aged 15-19 were more than five times higher than that for white females of the same age .
Of all mortality for American Indian/Alaska Natives aged 10-20, 75% stems from violent deaths, homicide, suicide, or unintentional injuries .
In a study by Mental Health America, native and indigenous people were more likely to screen positive or at-risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder compared to other groups .
In the U.S., 10.5% of people live in poverty. For indigenous/native people, 26.6% live in poverty and they are twice as likely to be unemployed .
Addressing BIPOC mental health concerns
Both the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the CDC have declared racism a public health threat. We must look at the mental health of BIPOC individuals in historical context; it can’t be separated out. In a country that was built on the genocide of indigenous people and the enslavement of people from Africa, it is more important than ever to educate, raise awareness, and equip the mental health community to better serve the BIPOC community.
“It’s an economic issue, right? You don’t have home ownership; you have no wealth. Health is wealth in itself. But if I can’t have health because I’ve been locked out, shut out, ignored and dehumanized, how in the world can I have access to anything?”Mazella Fuller, PhD, MSW, LCSW, CEDS
5 Ways Mental Health Professionals Can Help
If you work in the mental health field, we encourage you to explore what it means to provide culturally competent care. Mental health providers can gain the necessary skills to help them adequately and effectively address the mental health concerns and needs of BIPOC individuals, by learning about their cultural backgrounds, recognizing and addressing biases, and enacting necessary changes. By highlighting the unique mental health struggles of BIPOC Americans, we can take action to create new strategies to address these serious and life-threatening challenges.
- Reach out. If you are a mental health professional, what can you do to make treatment more affordable and accessible for BIPOC individuals? Can you increase access through telehealth and virtual treatment options? Can you offer community outreach to educate the public and to show them how mental health treatment works? Are you prioritizing work with vulnerable people in need?
- Be brave. We must have the courage to have hard conversations about race. Talk openly about your worries and fears, acknowledge that this is stressful, and know that it’s normal to feel upset and frustrated when talking about these critically challenging issues.
- Encourage community connections. For marginalized groups especially, social relationships are critical. Can you serve as a mentor, tutor, or volunteer in the BIPOC community? For BIPOC youth, trusted adults can provide many opportunities to help people feel a sense of belonging based on their values. Some of the opportunities you may wish to provide include mentorship, volunteer work, internships, jobs, community service, and more.
- Provide support and flexibility to employees. If you employ BIPOC individuals, how is your organization helping to address inequities in the workplace? Consider allowing your employees to work from home, have flexible schedules, and take the sick leave they need to care for themselves and their families. Also, clear communications and sound hiring practices are a must. What are you doing to foster diversity, equity, and inclusion?
- Reduce stigma. By now, many of us agree that struggling with mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. Help to get this message out to diverse individuals to encourage them to seek help for emotional hardship.
BIPOC mental health resources
- Institute for Antiracism and Equity in Mental Health
- Treating Black Women With Eating Disorders: A Clinician's Guide
- Therapy for Black Girls
Find free mental health support online for BIPOC individuals here.
- Podcast Episode & Transcript: Black Mental Health Part 1
- Podcast Episode & Transcript: Black Mental Health Part 2: Practical Tools
 American Psychological Association. (2020). Stress in America 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis. Accessed June 20, 2022.
 National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2020). Mental Health by the Numbers. Accessed June 20, 2022.
 National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Health, United States. Substance Use Table 50. Accessed June 20, 2022.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Mental and Behavioral Health – African Americans. Accessed June 20, 2022.
 Eating Recovery Center. (2020). Racial Justice and Healthcare Equity, by Toya Roberson-Moore.
 Mental Health America. BIPOC and LGBTQ+ Mental Health. Accessed June 20, 2022.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Profile: Black/African Americans. Accessed June 20, 2022.
 U.S. Census Bureau. (2020). Inequalities Persist Despite Decline in Poverty for All Major Race and Hispanic Origin Groups.
 Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2022). Health Insurance Coverage and Access to Care Among Black Americans: Recent Trends and Key Challenges.
 Yeh M., McCabe K., Hurlburt M., Hough R., Hazen A., Culver S., Garland A. & Landsverk J. (2002). Referral sources, diagnoses, and service types of youth in public outpatient mental health care: A focus on ethnic minorities. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research (29), 45-60.
 Delbello M.P., Lopez-Larson M.P., Soutullo C.A. & Strakowski S.M. (2001). Effects of Race on Psychiatric Diagnosis of Hospitalized Adolescents: A Retrospective Chart Review. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, (11)1, 95-103.
 National Alliance on Mental Illness. Indigenous. Accessed June 20, 2022.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. Mental and Behavioral Health – American Indians/Alaska Natives. Accessed June 20, 2022.