One in five people live with a mental health condition. This painful statistic shows that mental health disorders are more prominent than we might have thought. Many of these people also belong to an ethnic or racial minority. Historically, minority communities not only experience unique and considerable challenges in accessing mental health services, but discrimination or exclusion. Being a minority, along with other social determinants of health such as geographical location, availability of resources, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity contribute to minorities receiving inferior mental health treatment. Minorities who are impoverished, homeless, incarcerated or have substance abuse problems are at an even higher risk for poor mental health. These health disparities are preventable differences.
What can be done to change this?
Fortunately, it is being worked on, but will take time. With July being National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, there are organizations dedicated to providing support and resources while raising awareness for minority groups living with mental illness. The aim is to improve access to mental health services for multicultural communities through increased public awareness. Mental health services must be tailored to meet the unique needs of minority groups in different community settings.
A number of initiatives in place today focus on minority communities and their access to mental health. A range of initiatives continue to emerge at the federal, state, and local level. Primary care offices need to include mental health screenings that take into account a patient’s language and cultural background to address minority mental health care. It is imperative that mental health services are integrated with primary care services as they are the sole form of services for over a third of patients with a mental health disorder who are accessing the health care delivery system. The public mental health safety net of hospitals, community health centers, and local health departments are also vital to many minorities, especially to those in high-need populations.
There are many organizations that help millions of people who face mental illness each day. To learn more about mental health conditions, get involved in events, raise awareness and find support for family/friends/caregivers, reach out to the organizations. Here are a few.
National Alliance on Mental Illness www.NAMI.org
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration www.SAMHSA.gov
National Council of Behavioral Health www.thenationalcouncil.org
Mental Health America www.mentalhealthamerica.net