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July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s a time to educate yourself and others about the disadvantages faced by minorities who suffer from mental health disorders.
People from racial, ethnic, cultural, and social minorities deal with stigma, low-quality care, and less access to the treatment they need.
Spreading the word about these issues can help lessen the shame surrounding minority mental health care and improve access to quality treatment.
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History Of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was inspired by Bebe Moore Campbell, author, and co-founder of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Urban Los Angeles.
She spoke in support of mental health care for minorities, particularly African-Americans. She recognized that this racial group suffered from shame when it came to mental illness, which prevented them from seeking treatment.
Her friend, Linda Wharton-Boyd, advocated with her and developed the idea of dedicating a month to this important cause. In 2008, the House of Representatives approved the idea, making July the month to recognize minority mental health issues.
Many racial, ethnic, and cultural minorities face difficulties accessing and seeking mental health care. Members of the LGBTQ community, refugees, immigrants, and religious groups may also deal with stigma and barriers to treatment.
Barriers To Mental Health Treatment For Minorities
Social stigma is a significant barrier to treatment for minorities. Many of these groups are burdened by stereotypes that make them appear weak or inferior. Admitting that they have a mental health problem adds to the stereotype.
Poverty also prevents people from getting treatment. Data from Poverty USA shows that a higher percentage of Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics live in poverty than Caucasians.
Many people in poverty do not have health insurance, making the cost of treatment unaffordable. Those with insurance may still have trouble paying out-of-pocket costs.
Medicaid is available to most low-income individuals in the U.S., but not all. People who qualify for Medicaid may find that some mental health issues are covered but that they can only choose from low-quality care providers.
Even minority members who seek treatment could be at a disadvantage and not receive the help they need.
They may have to contend with language barriers and treatment that doesn’t fit with their cultural or personal values. Racism and other types of discrimination within a therapeutic setting can prevent them from completing the full course of treatment they need to heal.
Promoting Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
The goal of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is to widen access to treatment for minorities.
Better treatment access begins by individuals informing the public of issues like mental health disorders and barriers to treatment. Learning about mental health helps people understand the importance of ensuring that quality care is available to everyone.
Minority Mental Health Awareness Month can be promoted by:
- presentations on minority mental health issues
- recognition of the stigma surrounding mental health treatment
- social media posts supporting mental health care without shame
- education on treatment barriers among minority groups
- information on how to make quality care affordable and accessible
- emphasis on culturally appropriate treatment
- stories shared by minority members who’ve dealt with these issues
When people are aware of the struggle faced by minority members with mental health issues, they are more likely to fight for positive changes in the healthcare system and in society.
Why Does Minority Mental Health Matter?
Minority mental health matters because of everyone’s mental health matters. Good mental health is the foundation of a fulfilling life. Without it, a person may suffer in many ways.
Untreated mental health problems often become worse and lead to additional issues. They may even cause a person’s physical health to fail. The body and mind are inextricably linked, and both must be cared for if a person is to live a healthy life.
No one deserves mental health care less than someone else. But some people need it more than others. Those people shouldn’t be ashamed to seek help, and they shouldn’t continue to struggle because they can’t afford or find good care.