Minority Mental Health Awareness Month: How to Improve Disparities in Care
- Category: Mental Health
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July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to learn about the unique burdens and obstacles that minority communities face when seeking treatment for mental health issues in the United States. It can be difficult for anyone to get proper mental health care, but studies show overwhelming evidence that it is even harder for minority groups. Besides the common problems most of us have, such as high costs and the associated stigma that comes with mental illness, minorities often experience a greater lack of accessibility and poor quality of care.
Some examples of how mental health disparately affects minority groups include the following.
- According to the Department of Health and Human Services, minority groups are less likely to be properly diagnosed with a mental health issue and will have less access to care.
- More than 16 percent of Black or African American people were diagnosed with a mental health condition in the past year, and it is estimated that only one in three will receive adequate mental health care.
- LGBTQ individuals are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers are.
Why Do Minorities Have Less Access to Mental Health Care?
There are numerous reasons why members of minority groups may face additional obstacles when seeking mental health treatment, including the following.
- A lack of availability of health care centers in minority communities: Lower-income communities and areas with a higher population of minority groups often have less care centers in the neighborhood, making care less available if they do not have access to reliable transportation. This can discourage those in minority groups to seek treatment.
- A lack of adequate health insurance coverage/lack of affordable treatment options: Studies show that minority groups such as African Americans, nonwhite Hispanics, and some Asian American populations tend to have lower levels of health coverage compared to White people.
- Difficulty finding accessible childcare or time off work: Affordable and available childcare can be difficult to find for some members of minority groups, particularly in low-income areas. A lack of available paid time off can also make visiting a doctor difficult.
- The prevalence of mental health stigma in minority communities: In many cultures, mental illness is considered a sign of weakness. Some members of these minority groups may resist seeking treatment for a mental health issue for fear of being shamed or criticized by their peers or family.
- Racism, bias, and discrimination in the mental health care field and among providers: Bigotry exists everywhere, and it not uncommon for minority groups to be subjected to racism even by health care professionals. Having a negative prior experience with a discriminatory doctor may also deter them from seeking treatment in the future.
- Language barriers: Communication is important when receiving treatment for any health issue. Language barriers make it difficult for the patient to trust the doctor and feel comfortable discussing their problem.
By spreading awareness, increasing funding, and campaigning to encourage those in marginalized groups to seek treatment, it is possible to decrease these disparities and help make health care more accessible for minority groups.
How to Improve Access to Mental Health Care for Minorities
There are many ways to improve the status quo and help minority groups receive the care they need for their mental health.
- Education and awareness: While mental illness is no longer the taboo it once was, there is still a stigma surrounding it. Increasing awareness of how common mental health issues are and educating others on how to receive treatment for their symptoms is important in improving mental health outcomes for minority groups. You can do your part by volunteering for awareness events, talking about mental health care, and distributing educational tools and resources.
- Increased funding and affordability: The accessibility of quality affordable care is necessary to help people from all economic backgrounds receive treatment. Donating to fundraisers that provide free or low-cost mental health care to minorities and voting for legislators who support increasing funding for accessible care are effective ways you can help support increasing affordability of care.
- Increased diversity in the health care field: Taking initiatives to employ a culturally diverse staff in mental health care settings is an important step for those in the field to take to increase trust of health care providers within minority communities.
- Policy changes: Beneficial changes to policy include offering cultural sensitivity training in health care centers, making efforts to increase diversity among the health care workforce, offering free mental health screenings, and implementing programs that provide low-cost or free mental health care to those who need it.
- Advocacy and outreach: Volunteering for and donating to causes that support the accessibility of mental health care to minorities is a great way to enact change. There are numerous advocacy groups to support that are dedicated to improving mental health for minorities, such as National Alliance for Hispanic Health, Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective, Asian Mental Health Collective, and The Trevor Project.
Mental Health Care Services at Christian Health
At Christian Health we are dedicated to providing compassionate and unbiased care to people of all ages and backgrounds. If you are seeking assistance for a mental health problem, please call (201) 848-5500 for more information about our services and to schedule an appointment.