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Minority Women's Health

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Mental health problems and suicide

Visit the mental health section of womenshealth.gov to learn the symptoms of specific mental illnesses, including anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and more.

Money problems, health problems, and the loss of loved ones are all sources of stress, worry, and sadness. During stressful times, feeling sad, worried, or anxious for a little while is normal. But it's not normal to feel this way a lot of the time. Ongoing feelings of sadness and numbness can be signs of depression. Constant worrying that won't go away can be a sign of an anxiety disorder. These feelings are not just "in your head" or a sign of weakness. Mental health problems, such as anxiety and mood disorders, are real illnesses, just like diabetes or heart disease. They can cause changes in your brain and body chemistry.

Treatment can help people with mental health problems to feel better. But only 1 in 3 African-Americans who need mental health care get it. This may be partly due to lack of trust in the medical community. Or African-American women may not know the symptoms of mental health problems or know when to get help. Some people wrongly view mental illness as a sign of weakness or a loss of faith. Other reasons could include not having insurance or not being able to get to the doctor. No matter the reason, lack of mental health care means that African-Americans bear a high burden of disability related to mental health problems.

Getting help is important. Unlike most disabling physical illnesses, mental illness often begins early in life. In fact, recent research shows that African-American teenage girls are at high risk for suicide. The sooner a mental health problem is discovered, the better the chance for a full recovery.

Remember: Mental illnesses are real, and treatment can help. If emotional problems are interfering with work, school, relationships, or home life, see a doctor.

If you have thoughts of hurting or killing yourself, get medical help right away. Call 911, 800-SUICIDE, or 800-273-TALK (8255), or check in your phone book for the number of a suicide crisis center.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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