Minority Mental Health

July is National Minority Mental Health Month, a time to continue the visionary work of Bebe Moore Campbell who worked tirelessly to end the stigma and shed a light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities. As we recognize this month and the dedication to addressing the mental health needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), it is important to understand more about the challenges these communities are facing.

Mental Health & Minority Communities

Mental health issues can affect any race, ethnicity, or background, however, roughly two-thirds of those with a mental health disorder seek treatment. For minority individuals that number is even higher.

According to SAMHSA’s 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health:

  • 6.5 million Black and African American adults had a mental illness and/or substance use disorder, an increase of 10.1% over 2018.  
  • 8.9 million Hispanic adults had a mental illness and/or substance use disorder, an increase of 3.7% over 2018. 
  • 2.7 million Asian/Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders adults had a mental illness and/or substance use disorder.
  • 350,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives adults had a mental illness and/or substance use disorder. 

Treatment & Minority Communities

“Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General,” says, “Despite the existence of effective treatments, disparities lie in the availability, accessibility and quality of mental health services for racial and ethnic minorities.” Minority racial and ethnic groups often have barriers when seeking professional help for many reasons such as those listed below:

  • Lack of healthcare options
  • Stigma surrounding mental health among minority populations
  • Racism, bias, and discrimination in treatment settings
  • Lack of understanding by professionals of cultural values
  • Language barriers between patient and provider
  • Belief that mental health treatment is not effective
  • Lack of insurance or underinsurance

Additionally, research from NAMI has shown that for those who do seek treatment, the type of service varies among the community. Adults who identify as more than two races are more likely to receive outpatient services and are more likely to use prescription medication for mental health issues than any other ethnic group. Black and African Americans frequently use inpatient health services and Asian/Native Hawaiians, and Other Pacific Islanders are less likely to use any mental health services.  

We know that treatment for mental health issues is not the same for all ethnic groups, but we can all be advocates to improve the system for these communities. Below are just a few things that can be done to help those who are most vulnerable get the help they need:

  • Encourage those in the mental health community to include minorities on staff and boards to help improve understanding of needs
  • Support local and national efforts to improve access to and the quality of services
  • Speak out and raise awareness on behalf of the minority community.
  • Share information with minority communities about accessing quality care
  • Be open and understanding to the communities that may be experiencing challenges and issues that you are not

Minority communities are no different than others in that they want to live a healthy life. By working together and advocating for a better system, we can help redefine what a healthy community looks like across all communities.  

“Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans…It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.” –Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005

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