In May of 2008, Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was established by the US House of Representatives to take place every July. Before she lost her battle to cancer, Campbell worked with US Representative Albert Wynn to achieve two goals. The first was to establish a month of the year to enhance public awareness of not just mental illness, but specifically mental illness of minorities. The second was to improve access to mental health treatment and services. With the current revival of the racial justice movement, it is even more important to highlight the barriersminorities face in obtaining mental health care.
Minorities encounter barriers that may not even be considered by non-minorities. Cultural as well as mental illness stigma, a lower chance of health care coverage, and a lower quality of care due to bias and discrimination in treatment settings are the three most common.
Cultural stigma prompts individuals in some cultures to avoid seeking help for possible mental illness. Unless and until physical symptoms are present that their culture deems worthy of seeing a physician, they are strongly discouraged to even mention that there might be an issue. Many cultures take it a step farther and downplay the mental and emotional issues of men even more than those of women to the point that men suffer unnecessarily in silence.
Once individuals decide to seek care, they often struggle to determine if the health care coverage they have (if they have any at all) covers any mental health services. Many lower-cost health care plans only cover the most basic mental health coverage which might not be enough to accurately diagnose and treat mental illness.
After individuals determine what options are available under their health care plan, then the search begins to find a provider that does not have any racist tendencies or implicit biases that could affect the quality of care that the individual may receive. This should be the easiest part of the process but can be the most difficult as many people do not recognize their implicit biases.
Recognizing the barriers that minorities face in obtaining access to quality mental health treatment and continuing to work toward destigmatizing mental illness would provide positive steps forward in the treatment of minorities for mental illness. Our office is prepared to invest in all our patients’ wellness promotion, prevention, treatment, and recovery. Please contact us to determine if our practice will be a good fit for you.