Bringing up issues like depression and bipolar disease in the black community can prompt responses like,  “Mental illness and suicide only happens to white folks,” or “I’m not crazy, I just need to pray.” The reality is one in five African Americans suffer from a mental disorder—The same as their white counterparts says the U.S Department of Health and Human Services.

An alarming difference is that African Americans are less likely to receive treatment. University of Michigan Assistant Professor of Social Work Sean Joe, who conducted the first-known study on suicide rates among black Americans, believes that cultural myths, the legacy of mistrust of the medical community and cultural stigma are a few reasons why blacks don’t access mental health treatment. “Black men feel like they are weak if they seek therapy and many doubt that the treatment even works, “ he says. “People are just afraid to talk about these issues with each other.”

So how can these much-needed conversations be initiated? The Virginia-based organization National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) created a 15-page booklet, A Family Guide To Mental Health: What You Need to Know. The publication, geared toward African Americans, aims to help people take that initial step. It includes real-life stories along with a glossary defining illnesses, symptoms to look out for, and treatment options.

“Historically, communities of color, especially black people, have lacked the information, don’t know what the symptoms are and are afraid to ask for help,” explains MaJose Carrasco, NAMI’s Director of Multicultural Action Center. “Our booklet addresses those issues. Plus, it’s is written by African Americans, revised by them…it has true ownership.”

Carrasco stresses that she hopes her organization’s publication allows for people to understand that they are not alone. “Mental disease is not your fault and you shouldn’t suffer in silence, “she says. “There is help out there.”

A Family Guide To Mental Health: What You Need to Know can be downloaded, or multiple copies ordered at a bulk rate of 50 copies for $27.00, at