Advocates address deep distrust of mental health care among African-Americans

Call it The Sugar Defense.

When Joyce Coleman brings up her family’s history of mental illness, her elderly mother likes to change the subject.

“If I try to talk to my mother about it, she’s always like, ‘shhh,’” Coleman said with a laugh. “She doesn’t want to talk about that. As quickly as possible, she’ll switch the topic and say something like, ‘You know what? I just baked some brownies. Would you like to try a couple?’ She’ll do anything to move on to the next conversation.”

Though her mother’s evasive tactics make Coleman chuckle, she understands more than anyone that avoiding conversations about mental health isn’t funny. A committed mental health awareness activist and a HealthPartners care coordinator for people and families receiving treatment for…

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