Mental health awareness and services are at an all-time high. And yet, according to statistics, many minority demographics have not experienced this uptick in access to mental health provision like majority groups have. For many minority groups, rates of mental illness are much more severe than those affecting majority populations and accessible mental health services are much fewer and farther between.
Though some headway is being made in different parts of the country to change this status quo and equalise mental health care provision, this is slow work. For those in minority groups that experience healthcare disparities, it’s important to take proactive steps towards receiving adequate mental health support and help raise awareness amongst friends and family so that they can do the same.
Advances in mental health for minorities
A number of advocacy groups and public health organisations across the country have worked to raise the standard of care for minority groups over the past decade. Best practice for making mental health resources more available to vulnerable populations and minority groups has slowly gained traction amongst healthcare providers. Additionally, the conversation about how to make services more equitable is becoming more mainstream.
How things still need to change
However, there are significant parts of the healthcare provision system and associated public health frameworks that need to experience widespread, systemic shifts. It will take lots of work to achieve fair, robust, adequate mental health services provision and reach everyone in need (particularly those that belong to minority groups) with mental health care.
One large piece of this equation is awareness. Particularly amongst minority groups (e.g. African American or Black communities), stigmas often remain firmly attached to receiving counseling, therapeutic help, or treatment for mental illness.
A disparity also exists between the average awareness about mental health and mental illness amongst members of minority groups versus that amongst members of majority groups. And a third area of inadequate awareness affects how likely it is that members of minority groups are aware of resources or services available to them as compared to other groups.
This means that even if a community offered appropriate and accessible mental health services to its constituents, its minority group members would often be less likely to know of their existence (or how to receive them) than other members of the community.
Another part of the puzzle that needs to be addressed is accessibility. The cost of mental health services is often not covered by lesser insurance plans. Members of minority groups are less likely to have insurance coverage for mental health treatment than majority group counterparts. This bars many of them from being able to access mental health services.
A third factor that needs attention is the incorporation of mental health services into other publicly funded or communally available frameworks. An example of this is incorporating mental health services into schools or community health work.
More proactive mental health services like mental health screenings and counseling options are being slowly incorporated into school systems around the country. Improving and increasing these services and the budgets to sustain them can give large numbers of children access to services their families would often not be able to afford any other way.
Accessing nental health services and resources for minority individuals
If you are a minority individual that is seeking better mental health awareness or services for yourself or for those you love, a number of worthwhile avenues for exploration can help you seek out these resources:
If you are a child or a parent of children, reach out to your local school to see if they provide mental health services for their students. Often services are available and simply not well publicised. It is worth checking to see if anything is available that you’ve simply not been made aware of.
Local nonprofits and organisations can be searched for online. Reaching out to local or national mental health hotlines can also provide names of local resources, contacts, and programs that are available to you in your area.
National mental health associations and organisations can be another hugely helpful place to turn. Groups such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, Black Mental Health Alliance, and more can provide helpful resources on their website. They also often provide contact directories, support groups, and other information that can aid your search.
Government and public health agencies can also provide valuable resources for finding information about mental health services. The Office of Minority Health (OMH), an agency of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is a helpful place to start but there are many more.
Your local hospital or general practitioner can also point you towards resources if you call or visit and ask.
The road to accessing adequate mental health services is not always easy. However, there are resources out there that want to help you in this uphill battle. If you or someone you love needs mental health provision, take the first step and reach out to one of these resources.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.