The aim of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is to raise awareness about the unique struggles faced by Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) groups regarding mental health and mental illness. Mental health affects how we feel, think, and act. Also, mental health determines how we relate to others, handle stress, and make healthy choices.
Anyone can experience mental health challenges, and mental health conditions don't discriminate based on race/ethnicity, identity, or skin color. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines mental health as our psychological, social, and emotional well-being.Mental health is a critical issue that often gets overlooked. Adding to this are health disparities that exist for certain BIPOC groups. Many groups are not represented adequately in the broader conversation around mental health and have less access to mental healthcare. For this reason, mental health organizations and practitioners focus on addressing the mental health stigma and lack of access among BIPOC populations.
July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Until her death in 2006, Bebe Moore Campbell—advocate, author, and co-founder national spokesperson for National Alliance on Mental Illness Urban Los Angeles—worked tirelessly to eliminate stigma and advocate for mental health education among diverse communities. In 2005, Campbell and longtime friend Linda Wharton-Boyd got to work to outline the concept of a month dedicated to raising awareness about mental health and BIPOC groups.
After Campbell passed, Wharton-Boyd and other allied advocates took up the torch to reignite the cause. In 2008, the month of July was designated as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mental health disparities
BIPOC can suffer from poor mental health outcomes and health disparities in treatment due to cultural stigma and lack of access to mental health services. According to the CDC,
“Health disparities are preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by populations that have been disadvantaged by their social or economic status, geographic location, and environment. Many populations experience health disparities, including people from some racial and ethnic groups, people with disabilities, women, people who are LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or other), people with limited English proficiency, and other groups.”
Contributing factors affecting access to treatment by members of BIPOC groups may include:
- Mental illness stigmas
- Denial of mental health issues
- Language barriers
- Lack of knowledge of treatment options
- Lack of providers from diverse ethnic or racial backgrounds
- Lack of insurance or under-insured
- Distrust in the healthcare system
Awareness is essential in helping to bridge the gaps in access and care. Understanding and acknowledging the struggles people face is the first step.
Mental health within BIPOC Communities
Mental health is an essential concern at every stage of life, beginning with childhood and extending into adolescence and adulthood. Alternatively, behavioral health is best defined as the specific actions taken by people. Mental health can influence an individual's behavioral health.
According to 2020 statistics, Black people living below the poverty level are twice as likely to report emotional or psychological distress than Black Americans living twice above the poverty level.
While Black people living below the poverty level are more likely to experience mental health concerns, only one in three people needing mental health care receive it. Moreover, Black people living with mental illness have lower rates of receiving any mental health service, including outpatient services and prescription medications.
Native American and Alaska Natives
About 21% of people who identify as Native American and Alaska Native lack health insurance coverage, a disparity when compared to only 9.4% of the U.S. general population who don’t have insurance coverage.
And Native/Indigenous people in America report experiencing serious psychological distress 2.5 times more than the general population over a month’s time.
In many cases, people living in Native American and Alaska Native communities rely on traditional healing systems such as ceremonies that focus on balancing body, mind, and spirit with a connection to land and place. A strong identification with culture and an enduring spirit make many people reluctant to embrace new practices and change.
Like other groups of people, Native American and Alaska Native individuals face stigma associated with mental illness. Also, there is a profound lack of culturally sensitive services for mental health treatment.
Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI)
In 2018, AANHPI were 60% less likely to receive treatment for mental health issues when compared to non-Hispanic white people. One study discovered that 70% of refugees from Southeast Asia were diagnosed with PTSD when they sought mental health treatment.
While AANHPI less frequently report serious psychological distress than non-Hispanic white people, reporting by Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian people is similar to that of non-Hispanic white people.
In 2019, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders were three times less likely to receive prescription medications for mental health treatment or mental health services than non-Hispanic white people. Other statistics for Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are limited because of reliability of current data and sample size limitations.
Overall, AANHPI are the least likely ethnic group to access mental health services.
The Hispanic/LatinX community in the U.S. is very diverse, with people of numerous ethnicities from several different nations. While the Hispanic community is less at risk of many psychiatric disorders, Hispanic people living below the poverty level are twice as likely to report severe psychological distress than Hispanic people living more than twice over the poverty level.
In 2018, non-Hispanic whites were twice as likely to seek mental health treatment than Hispanic people. Hispanic people born in the U.S. report higher rates for many psychiatric disorders when compared to Hispanic immigrants.
How to support
If you or someone you know is struggling. Help is available. The Mental Health of America organization has culturally appropriate resources. The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number is 988. Deaf and hard of hearing people using TTY can reach this hotline by dialing 711, then 988.
If you are from a BIPOC community these resources may be more inclusive: Blackline is a hotline geared toward the Black, Black LGBTQIA2+, brown, Muslim, and Native communities. Trans Lifeline is a hotline for trans and questioning individuals. Wildflower Alliance is a peer support line and offers online support groups focused on suicide prevention.
Strategies for improvement
Unfortunately, stereotypes abound when it comes to mental health. Cultural stigma can add to this and can significantly affect a person’s willingness to reach out for help. Raising awareness is critical to change and improvement in BIPOC mental health.
- Gather info: Stigmas stem from having inadequate knowledge. Learning more about mental health and the unique experiences of individuals is the first step to raising awareness about the unique issues faced by BIPOC populations.
- Speak up: Encourage others to speak up about the challenges they're living with, and be an example by speaking up about your own issues.
- Be open: The more professionals and laypersons alike recognize the devastating impact of mental health on BIPOCcommunities, the sooner stigmas are challenged and set aside.
- Listen to people: When a person is experiencing a mental health crisis or signaling emotional distress, listen to them.
Mental health and the benefits of keeping track of your health
Many people who are diagnosed with mental illness can get support to manage their health when they participate in group or individual therapy, take medication or supplements, acupuncture, and/or find an outlet like exercise or a hobby. With many different treatment options available, individuals can find a treatment plan that works for them.
Evidation Members can earn points for tracking healthy actions, including activities that contribute to mental health. Download the app today to learn more.