National Minority Mental Health Month has been observed each July since it was established in 2008. During this month, I took a closer look at how mental health affects minority community members and want to share some of what I learned with you.
Mental illness does not discriminate. No matter what race you are or identify with, mental illness can strike at any moment. Some individuals have easier access to healthcare to help cope with it, or even just a better support system against the stigma. According to NAMI CEO, Daniel H. Gillison, there is an underlying effect of racism and racial trauma on mental health, and it should no longer be ignored. Everyone’s mental health matters, yet it is proven that minority communities have worse outcomes and treatments and difficulty in terms of inaccurate, underfunded, and unobtainable services. Some SAMHSA (2019) and CDC statistics in 2017 regarding mental health in young adults show that:
During these unprecedented times of a global pandemic, the feelings of anxiety and stress may become more recognizable, and individuals in some racial and ethnic groups might respond more strongly to the stress of this pandemic (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2020). However, in some of these communities, mental health challenges are still frowned upon and ignored due to reasons such as lack of access to care, cultural stigma, and just the overall quality of the care when accessible. Left unaddressed, a snowball effect takes place, and new generations of minority children may be faced with additional barriers in accessing help.
With this being said, can we take a moment to think about those we know that could potentially be living in a difficult situation? With the generational rise of racial trauma, police brutality, and the stigma around mental illness within minority communities, I did not realize as a non-Black individual the difficulties my friends, families, and community members face on a daily basis.
During this month, I would like to provide some statistics to understand just how much mental health affects minority groups, their surrounding communities, and why we should be aware of this serious and ongoing epidemic. I also want to give some ideas on what we all can do to help those who might need the mental support now more than ever. Listed below are some statistics found from Spring Health.
According to Spring Health:
Not only are these statistics showing why Black/African American’s do not seek out treatment, but also the other barriers preventing reaching out such as stigma surrounding mental health illnesses, the distrust of the healthcare system, the lack of diverse and culturally competent providers, as well as the lack of insurance (Spring Health).
We, as an advocating community, need to start asking more questions instead of, “How are you?” Some other questions we should be asking our friends and loved ones are (Spring Health):
Asking these specific questions not only will pave the way for a conversation, but hopefully will help someone feel we care about their emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual needs. These unprecedented times bring up so much uncertainty, ones that people like me, white individuals, do not have to face. I hope we can come together as a community to help our friends, loved ones, and neighbors feel safe, secure, and comfortable as we listen to their story and show we care. With the right resources, I feel confident we can work together as a community to help provide our friends and loved ones with support and guidance. There is much division these days, so let us find ways to bring people together, remembering that some mental health illnesses may be worse than our own personal ones, as we do not know what it feels like to live in another person’s shoes. Let’s band together and remember to love one another and ask a different question to spark an engaging conversation.
Here are some resources provided by Spring Health that may be beneficial in aiding minority community members in counseling or therapy and finding other communities to help them feel safe, secure, and trusting.
Counseling and Therapies:
Read more about National Minority Mental Health Month here: https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/content.aspx?ID=9447
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Black/African American
National Latino Behavioral Health Association
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Tribal Affairs- American Indians and Alaska Natives
National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2019). Behavioral Health Barometer: United States, Volume 5: Indicators as measured through the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services. HHS Publication No. SMA–19–Baro-17-US.
This blog was written by guest author, Alexandria Zammer. Alexandria is a Field Staff Specialist and Research and Data Assistant for the Delaware County Member and Family Satisfaction Team (M/FST), which is a program at Voice and Vision, Inc. Prior to being hired, Alexandria worked as an Intern for Voice and Vision, Inc. She currently is enrolled in the Master’s of Social Work program at Widener University.
The cover photo credit: https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/content.aspx?ID=9447
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