July is National Minority Mental Health Month. If you recall that we observed Mental Health Month in May, you may be wondering why we are having another month dedicated to the mental health of minorities again so soon. Well, I’m glad you asked! Mental health is a major health concern in minority communities across the country, not to mention a major factor in our ability to live out God’s purpose for our lives. (Yes, we are all precious in God’s sight!)
Examine the following statistics about the prevalence of mental disorders in U.S. adults, by race:
13.9% of Asian Americans
16.3% of Hispanic Americans
18.6% of Black Americans
19.3% of White Americans
28.3% of American Indians
However, even when someone is diagnosed with a mental disorder, they are less likely to receive adequate treatment for their condition. The statistics below demonstrate by gender the actual use of mental health services for those with a diagnosed condition:
Asian males–4.4%; Asian females–5.3%
Hispanic males–5.5%; Hispanic females–9.2%
Black males–6.6%; Black females–10.3%
White males–11.3%; White females–21.5%
American Indian males–16.3%; American Indian females–15.1%
Part of the challenge of getting the help we need at these crisis moments is the stigma that is associated with undergoing evaluation by a mental health professional (Armstrong, 2016). We feel that discussing mental challenges is taboo, or we fear that others will think we are crazy. Even worse, we may fear that getting help is a sign of insufficient faith. We resist the label of a psychiatric diagnosis, and in so doing, choose instead to continue our suffering, and that of our family and community members. Even if we receive a diagnosis, we are less likely to pursue treatment, for several reasons. Often, even under the Affordable Care Act (still in effect at this moment), millions of Americans, especially persons of color, have been uninsured or underinsured. Persons with Medicaid, public insurance for low-income individuals, occasionally have difficulty identifying therapists who accept their insurance. If affordability is not an issue, therapist suitability often is. While much healing can occur with anyone skilled in the art and science of psychotherapy, we usually find it easier to connect with someone who looks like us, both because we hope that there are some shared cultural experiences (although we should assume nothing), and because we hope that we will be shielded from further experiences of racial discrimination. If a therapist does not share our cultural background, we hope that the therapist will show multicultural competence and humility in how they respond to the very real challenges of injustice and marginalization experienced by persons of color in America.
Mental disorders from anxiety and depressive disorders to schizophrenia are brain diseases that have adverse impacts on the individual, the family, and the community. If you or a family member has ever suffered from a mental illness, you are probably very aware of the shame that is experienced, whether from internal or external sources. Persons who suffer from mental disorders are more likely to experience challenges with work attendance, family relationships, health status, and numerous other outcomes related to quality of life. So raising awareness about mental health and helping affecting persons to get professional help can have a long-term positive outcomes for everyone in our communities. Schools, faith communities, and other local agencies can help greatly by spreading this news this month–and every month–that quality, affordable mental health care for persons of color is available and effective! For persons ready to take the courageous step of finding a therapist or counselor, consider the following resources:
Let July be another good time to appeal to yourself, your family, and friends to reach for the best mental health and wellness possible!
À Votre Santé (“To Your Health”),
Tonya Armstrong, Ph.D., M.T.S.
Armstrong, T. D. (2016). African-American congregational care and counseling: Transcending universal and culturally-specific barriers. Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, 70(2), 118-122.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (2015). Mental health facts: Multicultural. Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/NAMI/media/NAMI-Media/Infographics/MulticulturalMHFacts10-23-15.pdf.