BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month
When we think of the most impactful and costly health conditions in the United States, we probably first think of cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. Did you know, however, that mental health issues are among the most expensive health conditions for adults ages 18-64, and that only 43% of people with a mental health diagnosis actually receive treatment or counseling? Of that 43%, Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are even less likely to seek treatment.
Since July is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, we wanted to share some important facts about the mental health of minoritized populations, how race can affect it, and what can be done to improve outreach and outcomes.
Some Facts About Mental Health in BIPOC Communities
Even though rates of depression tend to be lower in Black and Hispanic populations than in non-Hispanic white populations, the quality of depression is often more intense, making it harder to treat. The highest rate of depression is seen in individuals who are multi-racial.
According to a recent Mental Health America screening, Native Americans more than any other BIPOC group were most likely to report frequent thoughts of suicide or self-harm (about 46%). This result correlates with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Black Americans, the experiences of racism are a major contributing factor to mental health issues. According to the NAACP, at least 65% of the Black community has been racially targeted, and this holds true for those who identify as multi-racial as well as for the Native Americans.
How Race Affects Mental Health Care
One reason for the higher rate of disabilities from mental health disorders could be that BIPOC populations tend to receive less mental health care than whites. Compared to the US white population, Blacks and Hispanics receive mental health treatment about 17% less often than whites, and for Asians, it’s an even greater disparity – about 26%.
Systemic racism, stigma and a multitude of other factors continue to be obstacles to getting mental health treatment to those who need it most. As a country, we have to engage in conversations about the impact stigma and the trauma of systemic racism have had on the mental health of Black Americans. We need funding and infrastructure in place to get treatment to those who are suffering, and to ensure that those seeking treatment can be seen by culturally competent therapists who understand their story. The disparities must be addressed now and moving forward and the conversations need to be ongoing.
At The Ross Center, our recently formed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce has developed a statement of inclusivity for the practice, to exemplify our ongoing commitment to reduce systemic racism.
The Ross Center is an equal opportunity organization, and does not discriminate on the basis of race, age, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, disability, color, size, religion, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, or socioeconomic background. We are committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all patients and members of our staff.
Another factor in the mental health care disparities in our communities is that our criminal justice system tends to unfairly target people of color. Black Americans are incarcerated five times more often than whites, and mental health issues are common among the prison population. This overrepresentation extends to the juvenile system.
Lastly, poverty and residential segregation leads to mental health disparities among BIPOC populations. Poorer communities are burdened by a lack of access to quality jobs, quality education, and quality healthcare facilities. Lack of resources and poverty that inhibit greater access to healthcare are two major influences on mental health outcomes.
Advancing Mental Health Care for BIPOC Communities
There is no easy solution. But steps can – and must – be taken. Increasing healthcare access and healthcare coverage are two, but increasing the cultural competency of mental health providers is also key. More research and education need to be conducted surrounding cultural factors that affect mental health services for Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
Insurance companies should also improve mental health coverage, which is often narrow in scope and limited to only a few visits. Mobile health clinics and telemedicine could positively impact better access to care as well.
Investing in BIPOC community outreach programs is also necessary to increase trust in the health care system, provide education on the benefits of mental health treatments, reduce the stigma of treatment, and create two-way conversations that break down barriers.
In a broader, high-level scope, successfully addressing the racial issues that are prevalent in the criminal justice system and other social structures is necessary to break the cycle of poverty and increase economic opportunities for marginalized populations.
For mental health resources that are available to BIPOC and underrepresented communities, please visit https://afsp.org/mental-health-resources-for-underrepresented-communities.
If you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health concerns, we also invite you to reach out to The Ross Center. We are here to respect, value, and, most of all, help you on your journey to a better quality of life, which we all deserve.