Who is affected?

Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background. However, background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult. Ongoing stigma and lack of access to health care act as barriers for anyone with a mental health condition, but experts argue there’s a particular disparity when it comes to minorities, which can contribute to individuals not receiving proper support or treatment in order to feel better.

A new study published in the International Journal of Health Services only further corroborates this fact. Researchers found that black and Hispanic young people were less able to get mental health services than white children and young adults. This happens despite the fact that rates of mental illness are generally consistent across all ethnicities, Kaiser Health News reported.

  • African American adults are 20% more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population
  • Native Americans have the highest rate of young adult suicide of any ethnicity.
  • 60% percent of non-Hispanic black individuals with depression had a major depressive episode in 2012.
  • 25% of African Americans seek treatment for a mental health issue, compared to 40 percent of white individuals. The reasons for this drop off include misdiagnosis by doctors, socioeconomic factors and a lack of African American mental health professionals.

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 2008 to start changing the discrepancies in these statistics. Taking on the challenges of mental health conditions, health coverage and the stigma associated with mental illness requires support and awareness from health professionals and the general public. In many communities, these problems are increased by less access to care, cultural stigma and decreased quality of care. For example, many people of color feel more comfortable receiving treatment from a therapist or physician of color and studies have show that there are less Latino and black practitioners compared to white practitioners in the mental health realm. Many cultures including the Hispanic community, the Native American Indian community and individuals from Asian decent consider it “weak” to seek help for a mental illness and therefore these communities have a great stigma associated with mental health. In 2018, National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is promoting the theme “Cure Stigma” throughout all awareness months and awareness events, including Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.