Mental Health in Minority Communities

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left”]Diego Ponieman, M.D. M.P.H.[/avatar]

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to shine an added light on mental health within marginalized communities. Mental health issues affect people regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, age, gender, or sexual orientation with nearly one in five American adults experiencing a mental illness at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

As we discussed in May, mental health has to do with our emotional and psychological well-being while mental illness refers to a broad range of diagnosable disorders. A person can be experiencing poor mental health in reaction to a particularly stressful period of time, whereas a person will be affected by a diagnosed mental illness or condition throughout their entire life.

Currently, approximately 15% of Hispanic and Asian-American adults are living in the United States with a mental health condition. Most are facing challenges such as a lack of access to high-quality care and cultural incompetence that impede proper treatment. Poor mental health care quality and access contribute to poor outcomes, which when dealing with mental health can result in suffering and, ultimately, suicide.

Furthermore, cultural stigma and hesitation to seek and receive treatment are also key barriers to addressing these health issues.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA):

  • Asian-Americans are less likely to use mental health services than any other racial group;
  • Over 70% of Black adolescents with a major depressive episode did not receive treatment for their condition;
  • Almost 25% of adolescents with a major depressive episode in the last year were Hispanic/Latino.

It’s key to remember that mental health is just as important as physical health and should be treated with an equally high priority. There is no shame in being proactive and seeking help.

If you or someone you know is experiencing continued unhealthy symptoms – stress, irritability, fear, sadness, hopelessness, fatigue, loss of interest, difficulty sleeping, appetite or weight change, and feelings of lack of self-worth (to name a few) – visit your doctor to get more information and find the right treatment.

Additionally, we can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. Contact: 1-800-273-8255.