5 Minority Mental Health Issues Everyone Should Understand

To close out Minority Mental Health Awareness month, Dior Vargas, a Latina feminist and mental health activist, held an important Twitter chat on Friday.

Vargas is the founder of the People of Color & Mental Illness Photo Project, a series created to help people of color with mental illnesses know they’re not alone and discuss the unique issues people of color face in the mental health community. We learned a lot from both Vargas’ questions and the responses she received. Take a few minutes to educate yourself about minority mental health:

1. “What are some of the myths/misconceptions about mental health in minority communities?”

Answer: “We often frame mental health as personal or will power issue versus a health one. But that’s not unique to people of color.” — Nora Rahimian

Mental health knows no boundaries. Nearly one in five people live with a mental illness, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

2. “What are the realities of living with a mental illness condition specifically for a person of color?” 

Answer: “Perception vs. Reality: We perceive seeking help as weakness. The REALITY is that it’s a sign of strength.” — Hispanic Serving Health Professions School

Only 41 percent of people with a mental illness seek help each year, according to Mental Health America. Finding help is a step in right direction. There is a wide variation of support and treatment. You can start by using a screening tool.

3. “What are some main concerns of these communities when it comes to mental health and getting mental health care?”

Answer: “Black teens are less likely than white teens to receive mental health treatment.” — National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health

While black teens are less likely to receive help, African Americans are 20 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health.

4. “What are some changes that are needed when it comes to the current mental health care system?”

Answer: “[There] needs to be more mental health practitioners period. Lack of access is still a huge concern in diverse communities.” — Prototypes

There is a lack of mental health services due to funding, absence of mental health from the public agenda and the current organization of mental health services, according to the World Health Organization. Only about 5.6 percent of the national healthcare spending is dedicated to mental health, according to the Health Affairs journal.

5. “What is your idea of a mental health utopia?”

Answer: “A world that has the proper resources for effective treatment that is affordable to the poor.” — Yukio Strachan

Although minorities face barrier when it comes to mental health, all populations seeking mental health services are affected by social stigmas. Anyone with a mental illness can face mistrust, fear of treatment and discrimination by individuals and institutions, according to “Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity, A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General.”

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