When he was a freshman honor student at Morehouse College, Dr. Taft Parsons III recalls walking to a restaurant near campus with a few friends.
“We were just strolling to get some food to eat and a police officer jumped out of the back of a van that we had not noticed or been aware of, with his gun drawn,” says Taft. “And he shouted: ‘I could have killed you!’”
Today, as the chief psychiatric officer at CVS Health® — and one of only 2% of psychiatrists in the United States who are Black — Taft has a unique lens on mental health impacts of experiencing racism and discrimination.
“(Racism) creates a heightened sense of fear and stress that the general population just simply doesn’t have to deal with,” he adds.
July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, which highlights the unique mental health challenges and needs of historically disenfranchised or oppressed racial and ethnic groups in the United States.
Americans of color are frequently over-diagnosed as having psychotic conditions when, for example, they may actually have depression, says Taft, adding that there is extensive data that shows that when black patients have a black provider, they have better outcomes.
He adds that addressing mental health concerns is also critical to physical health. “There is no health without mental health.”