The U.S. House of Representatives first declared July to be National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008. This event came after an address to U.S. Congress from Bebe Moore Campbell, an African American teacher and journalist. Campbell helped her daughter deal with a mental health diagnosis, and during her experience with her daughter, Campbell learned of the unique challenges that minorities face when dealing with mental health issues. She became a tireless advocate for minority communities, and her work has had a nationwide impact.
In honor of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we do our part to raise awareness and discuss minority mental health issues in this article. Additionally, we share actionable steps on how anyone can get involved and raise awareness for minority mental health issues themselves. Raising awareness is the first step in enacting positive, lasting change for the mental health of minority groups.
Key issues that minorities face when struggling with mental health
When struggling with mental health, members of minority groups often have to deal with various other issues surrounding access to care. One of these issues is coping with stigmas associated with seeking mental health treatment. In Asian American communities, some individuals consider mental health issues to be shameful, and discussing mental health treatment is often taboo. When members of the Asian American community struggle with mental health, they often have to also face pressure to remain silent about their experiences.
Relatedly, Campbell observed that the impact of racism can exacerbate the stigma surrounding mental health in Black and African American communities. In a well-known quote, Campbell states, "While everyone - all colors - everyone is affected by stigma - no one wants to say 'I'm not in control of my mind.' No one wants to say, 'The person I love is not in control of [their] mind.' But people of color really don't want to say it because we already feel stigmatized by virtue of skin color or eye shape or accent and we don't want any more reasons for anyone to say, 'You're not good enough.'" In this case, the impact of racism compounds stigmas surrounding mental health treatment and likely results in fewer members of Black and African American communities receiving the treatment they need.
Some members of minority communities also struggle with language or cultural barriers when trying to access mental health care. This reality is particularly the case among older, immigrant populations. For example, members of the Hispanic and Latinx community who may not speak English fluently may struggle to find a Spanish-speaking mental health care program. Mental health care is a complex topic, and it is often difficult for an individual to receive effective treatment if there is no shared language with the care provider. Similarly, some members of minority groups may find difficulties with cultural differences between themselves and mental health professionals. For example, less than two percent of mental health professionals associated with the American Psychiatric Association are Black or African American.
Another issue that members of minority groups may face is difficulty paying for treatment. On average, some minority groups are less likely to have health insurance coverage than the general population. Also, some members of minority groups are more likely to face poverty. For example, members of the Native American community are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than members of the general population. This reality can lead to behavioral health problems such as substance abuse, which occurs at higher rates and younger ages among Native Americans.
Ways to raise awareness during Minority Mental Health Month
As mentioned, raising awareness for minority mental health issues is an important step for helping minority communities access effective mental health treatment. Even while respecting social distancing guidelines, people can participate by sharing social media content on minority mental health issues. As part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) You Are Not Alone campaign, the organization has a variety of premade image content for people to share. Be sure to include relevant hashtags, including #NotAlone, #MinorityMentalHealth, and #MMHAM.
People can also get involved by sharing stories of their lived experiences with mental health issues through NAMI's Personal Stories campaign. These efforts can help people who are currently struggling with mental illness by displaying support and showing them hope for change.
How Las Encinas Hospital can help you or a loved one
Las Encinas Hospital provides mental health treatment programs to the Pasadena, California, community and surrounding areas. Our clinicians are aware of the unique challenges that minority groups face when dealing with mental health issues, and we work to provide an inclusive environment for everyone. Our programs include inpatient mental health treatment and a variety of outpatient programs, including partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs.
To get started at Las Encinas Hospital, please call our hotline at (877) 579-8140. Our caring team can help you determine if Las Encinas Hospital is right for you or your loved one.