July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Why is this important? Because people of all races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, ages and religions experience mental health concerns. Some are transitory while others are chronic. Some affect our quality of life, happiness, and wellbeing. Others can exacerbate existing medical conditions increasing suffering and costs to employers, taxpayers, and patients. Severe conditions can be disabling and even result in premature death and suicide.
Across the country, especially during periods of exceptional stress and anxiety as we are going through now, Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of good mental health. However, awareness of disparities in mental health issues among minority populations is not as well recognized.
Espyr is joining the conversation with many other voices across the country during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. We are calling attention to the issues disadvantaged minority groups in America regularly experience in accessing mental health services and we are joining our voice with those advocating for the end to such disparities.
Minority Mental Health Issues
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services. It reports that marginalized communities in the United States are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to receive poorer mental health care and more likely to use expensive Emergency Department services for treatment. These facts, which are supported by a wealth of research, lead to a disproportionate number of minority group members having poorer mental health. Poorer mental health is also associated with poorer medical treatment outcomes, given mental health conditions such as depressive or anxiety disorders interfere with or complicate medical interventions. Let’s take a moment to look at this issue on both a personal or micro level and on a societal or macro level.
Micro Level Issues
On a micro level, one way that minorities can experience barriers is through their interactions and communications with clinicians. Treatment professionals interview and assess clients or patients. Based on their assessment, clinicians make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan to address the diagnostic condition that suits that unique client. Studies have shown that many clinicians have a greater challenge of discerning noise from signals in interactions with minority group clients because of miscommunication and lack of cultural awareness on the part of the clinician. This dynamic can result in misdiagnosis, inadequate treatment plans, less engagement with the client, and ultimately poorer care for the consumer.
Related to this minority mental health issue, Espyr is providing a continuing professional development workshop for its staff and its network clinicians on Aug 28 about racial and cultural diversity and culturally informed interventions in counseling. Our workshop will help providers of care consider the implications of race, culture, systemic racism, privilege and oppression in their work with clients and patients. Other leaders in the medical and behavioral health fields will hopefully take similar steps to educate practitioners.
Macro Level Issues
On a macro level, minority groups are often among 38 million Americans living in poverty according to the pre-Covid pandemic, pre-recession data from the U.S. Census Bureau in 2018. Living in poverty is associated with a host of negative consequences for children, adults and families including poorer access to healthcare and to mental health services. The Trump administration’s proposal to severely cut or “de-fund” Medicaid over the next decade (Medicaid provides healthcare for poor children and adults) also threatens to make a bad public health situation much worse.
Thanks for learning about this issue and please join in the conversation. Take the time to learn more about minority mental health and public policy issues and what you can do to contribute to awareness and positive change. If you haven’t given this issue much attention, then the resources below are a good starting point for further thought and dialogue.
Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Office of Minority Health, US Department of Health and Human Services
NAMI’s Statement on Recent Racist Incidents… National Alliance for Mental Illness
AFSP’s Statement on Minority Mental Health…American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (A service partner of Espyr)
Espyr’s innovative mental health solutions, coaching and assistance programs have been helping employees and organizations achieve their full potential for over 30 years. For more information on how Espyr can help your organization, call Espyr at 888-570-3479 or click here.