July is Minority Mental Health Awareness month. You might wonder: why the distinction, if mental health doesn’t discriminate across race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation?
Consider this: while the number of people experiencing mental illness may be the same across demographic groupings, people’s access to care and quality of treatment for mental illness varies greatly.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “the quality of and access to mental health care are suboptimal for minority groups.” NIMH also describes several recent studies showing that “members of racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to use inpatient hospitalization and emergency rooms, and more likely to receive lower quality care.”
Cultural and language differences add to the challenge. Mental illness is still not acknowledged in many cultures, resulting in even more stigma around help seeking behaviors. In fact, mental health symptoms might present as physical symptoms so that the underlying causes to problems are missed.
Most clinicians in the US provide services in English, which puts certain ethnic groups at a disadvantage. Those who seek help often are connected to counselors who don’t speak their native language, making it even less likely they will follow through with long-term counseling.
The result is that many minorities experience more severe forms of mental health disorders such as depression or posttraumatic stress disorder than their non-minority counterparts. While this may sound discouraging, progress is being made. Programs like the Behavioral Health Equity Program have been created to ensure quality of care for all who need it.
Resources such as Screening for Mental Health’s anonymous mental health screening, which is available in several languages and addresses nine different mental health disorders, allow those concerned with stigma to find out whether they can benefit from help and connects them to local resources. Take a screening today to see if you or someone you care about may be at risk for a mental health disorder at https://healthymindsphilly.org/en/screening/