July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Anyone can experience mental health conditions, regardless of his or her race or background. However, background and identity can make access to quality mental health treatment a lot harder. Plus, in many cultures, there’s a strong stigma toward mental health treatment.

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was created in 2008. It was designed to raise awareness of these issues and to encourage change and discussion on the topic.

Bebe Campbell was the co-founder of the National Alliance to Mental Health (NAMI). She worked to campaign for minorities to receive the proper education and treatment for their mental health until she died in 2006. The National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month continues Campbell’s work and achievements, shining the light on mental health and ethnic minorities for one month each year.

Let’s learn more about the link between mental health and minority groups and how these issues are related to substance abuse.

The Statistics on Minorities and Mental Health

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2017:

• 41.5% of young people aged from 12 to 17 received care for a major depressive episode. Yet only 35.1% of black youth and 32.7% of Hispanic youth received treatment for their illness.

• Asian American adults were less likely to use mental health facilities than any other race.

• 13.3% of young people aged from 12 to 17 experienced at least one depressive episode. But, that number was greater among American Indian and Alaska Native youth at 16.3% and among Hispanic youth at 13.8%.

• 18.9% of adults (46.6 million people) had a mental illness. That rate was greater among people of two or more races at 28.6%, non-Hispanic whites at 20.4%, and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders at 19.4%.

The co-occurrence of individuals who seek treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues is high, which, based on the statistics above, suggests that a large group of minorities who are not receiving proper mental health treatment are also receiving fewer opportunities for addiction recovery.

Despite the progression in health equity in recent years, inequalities in mental health care continue. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) notes that racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States are less likely to have access to mental health facilities.

Not only that, but they’re less likely to use them too. And even if they decide to use mental health services, they’re more likely to receive lower quality treatment.

As a result, poor mental health care access and quality lead to worsened outcomes in mental health. This can lead to higher suicide rates among racial and ethnic minority communities.

These figures prove that ethnic minorities need a defined mental health awareness month so we can begin to bridge the gaps and make mental health care more accessible and of better quality for ethnic minority groups.

man with hands covering mouth

Explaining the Statistics

As mentioned, one huge issue for ethnic minority groups is the lack of access to quality mental health care. For those that do receive treatment, some people face unfair conduct from medical staff. This leads them to avoid seeking treatment at all.

For other minorities, the lack of funding to pay for mental healthcare prevents them from seeking help. State-funded Medicaid and similar programs are available for some people. But, not everyone has coverage for mental health services.

When attempting to access mental health treatment, ostracized communities experience various issues. These include language barriers, bias and discrimination in treatment, lower-quality care, personal assumptions that treatment won’t help, difficulty accessing treatment, and racism.

Another big problem for minority groups is the stigma when it comes to mental health. Two-thirds of people who suffer from a mental health disorder in ethnic minority groups will never look for treatment from mental health services.

In many cultures, people are fearful of bringing up the topic of mental health in fear of judgment from their community. For example, African American men and women learn that they should be influential leaders of a household, so mental illness deems as a weakness.

For lots of ethnic minority communities, mental health treatment is viewed as a luxury. Many people assume that their mental health disorder will pass and that seeking help is unnecessary and expensive. But these harmful insights can further separate ethnic minority groups who need professional care and treatment.

comforting a loved one

Changing the System

Together, we can help create change against these inequalities and fight stigma with Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.

The first step is learning more about mental health and the disparities with ethnic minority groups. Make an effort to speak about these issues with the broader community.

Do your part in bringing the issue of minority mental health disregard to light by taking part in Minority Mental Health Awareness Month this July. Consider creating campaigns to raise awareness. Most importantly, continue the discussion on mental health and race with family, friends, and co-workers in your community.

 

About the Author

Paula Nicola, M.D.
Dr. Nicola is the Facility Director at Renu. She is a trained and board certified medical doctor with specialized training in addiction medicine.

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