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'Swept Under The Rug': Researchers Take A Closer Look At Mental Health And Its Affects In African American Communities

CHICAGO (CBS) --  There's a lot of discussion over mental health these days, but African Americans of all ages are really struggling.

CBS 2's Shardaa Gray spoke with a doctor on why researchers are taking a close look at what's happening in Chicago.

"It's ok not to be ok."

An expression we saw on the walls of Coffee, Hip Hop, and Mental Health's soon-to-be new home.

We're now taking a deeper look into what that means.

"There's a lot of work to be done on the side of psychiatry and mental health in terms of bridging some of those barriers that have been put up."

We talked with Dr. Olu Ajilore, professor of psychiatry at UIC college of medicine, who says the stigma in not seeking a therapist in black communities has a lot to do with cultural issues.

"In a lot of black families, mental health just aren't talked about or swept under the rug," Dr. Ajilore said.

African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population, but only one-in-three African Americans who need mental health care receive it.

Suicides among black children under 18 nationwide are up 71% in the past decade, rising from 86 in 2006 to 147 in 2016.

"Even though suicides tends to be higher in white youth and native American youths, but the rate for black youth is going up and this, unfortunately, has been understudied and underappreciated."

The University of Illinois at Chicago's Center on Depression and Resilience has started a program called Sunnyside for Moms, an initiative that combines cutting-edge technology and new opportunities to identify blood biomarkers for depression in an effort to help African American moms from low-income communities and treat perinatal depression.

"so you can chat with a therapist on your device or do cognitive behavioral therapy modules on a smartphone. This is some of the work that we're doing here at UIC," Dr. Ajilore said.

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