Understanding Mental Health Among Minority Groups and How to Build a Stronger Community
Did you know that minoritized populations are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness, have less access to and availability of mental health services, often receive poorer quality of mental health care and are underrepresented in mental health research? Shocking right? We thought so too. In this blog post, we will help you understand a bit more about this phenomenon. We’ll define some key terms (like ‘minoritized groups’), identify some internal and external barriers of care for different minoritized populations, discuss different types of stigma, address the importance of community, and discuss different ways to spread awareness and build mental wellness.
Before we answer all of your burning questions, let’s level the playing field and describe some of the terms you will see throughout this post.
- Minoritized Group: A social group that is devalued in society and given less access to its resources. This devaluing encompasses how the group is represented, what degree of access to resources it is granted, and how the unequal access is rationalized. Traditionally, a group in this position has been referred to as the minority group.
- Health Equity: Everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.
- Disparities: Preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.
Now that we are familiar with a few key terms, let’s look at how mental health affects specific minoritized groups. In each group, we have incorporated some baseline statistics to help provide context. While this is just a starting point (pun intended), it will shed some light on the mental health disparities that minoritized groups experience.
Mental Health Disparities Among the Black/African American Community
- 17% (6.8 million people) of African Americans live with some sort of Mental Illness.
- Black/African American teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than White teenagers (9.8% v. 6.1%).
- 16% of Black/African American people (4.8 million) reported having a mental illness, and 22.4% of those (1.1 million people) reported a serious mental illness over the past year.
- Serious mental illness rose among all ages of Black/African American people between 2008 and 2018.
- In 2018, 58.2% of Black and African American young adults 18-25 and 50.1% of adults 26-49 with serious mental illness did NOT receive treatment.
- Nearly 90% of Black and African American people over the age of 12 with a substance use disorder did NOT receive treatment.
- In 2016, 12.3% of Black and African American adults who had a doctor’s office or clinic visit over the past year had difficulty getting needed care, tests or treatment compared to 6.8% of white adults.
Mental Health Disparities Among the Latino/Hispanic American Community
- 15% (8.9 million people) of Latino/Hispanic Americans live with some sort of Mental Illness.
- Serious mental illness (SMI) rose from 4% to 6.4% in Latino/Hispanic people ages 18-25, and from 2.2% to 3.9% in the 26-49 age range between 2008 and 2018.
- Major depressive episodes increased from 12.6%-15.1% in Latino/Hispanic youth ages 12-17, 8% to 12% in young adults 18-25, and 4.5% to 6% in the 26-49 age range between 2015 and 2018.
- Latino/Hispanic people are more likely to seek help for a mental health disorder from a primary care provider (10%) than a mental health specialist (5%).
- 18% of Latino/Hispanic people in the U.S. do not have health insurance, with those of Honduran and Guatemalan origin having the highest rates of being uninsured (35% and 33% respectively).
- In 2018, 56.8% of Latino/Hispanic young adults 18-25 and 39.6% of adults 26-49 with serious mental illness did NOT receive treatment.
- Nearly 90% of Latino/Hispanic people over the age of 12 with a substance use disorder did NOT receive treatment.
Mental Health Disparities Among the Asian American/Pacific Islander Community
- 13% (2.2 million people) of Asian Americans live with some sort of Mental Illness.
- Serious mental illness (SMI) rose from 2.9% (47,000) to 5.6% (136,000) in AAPI people ages 18-25 between 2008 and 2018
- Major depressive episodes increased from 10% to 13.6% in AAPI youth ages 12-17, 8.9% to 10.1% in young adults 18-25, and 3.2% to 5% in the 26-49 age range between 2015 and 2018.
- Language barriers make it difficult for Asian Americans to access mental health services. Discussing mental health concerns is considered taboo in many Asian cultures. Because of this, Asian Americans tend to dismiss, deny, or neglect their symptoms.
- AAPIs adults are the racial group least likely to seek mental health services – 3 times less likely than their white counterparts.
- Of AAPI adults with a mental illness, 73.1% did not receive treatment compared to 56.7% of the overall population.
Mental Health Disparities Among Native and Indigenous Communities
- 23% (830,000 people) of Native Americans/Alaskan Natives live with some sort of Mental Illness.
- Native/Indigenous people in America report experiencing serious psychological distress 2.5 times more than the general population over a month’s time.
- Native/Indigenous people in America start to use and abuse alcohol and other drugs at younger ages, and at higher rates, than all other ethnic groups.
- Native/Indigenous people who meet the criteria for depression, anxiety, or substance abuse disorders are much more likely to seek help from a spiritual and/or traditional healer than from specialty or other medical sources.
- Due to high levels of poverty, many Native/Indigenous people in America face economic barriers that prevent them from receiving treatment.
- Compared to non-Hispanic whites, nearly 3 times as many Native/Indigenous people had no health insurance – 5.9% compared to 14.%. Approximately 43% of Native/Indigenous people in America rely on the Medicaid or public coverage.
Mental Health Disparities Among the LGBTQ+ Community
- 37% (3.9 million people) of Individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ live with some sort of Mental Illness.
- LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over 4 times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
- 48% of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4% of the overall US population.
- Research suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.
- Approximately 8% of LGBTQ+ individuals and nearly 27% of transgender individuals report being denied needed health care outright.
- Evidence suggests that implicit preferences for heterosexual people versus lesbian and gay people are pervasive among heterosexual health care providers.
- In a survey of LGBTQ+ people, more than half of all respondents reported that they have faced cases of providers denying care, using harsh language, or blaming the patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the cause for an illness. Fear of discrimination may lead some people to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity from providers or avoid seeking care altogether.
Internal & External Barriers to Care
Now that we have taken a deep dive into the mental health disparities among minoritized groups, let’s take a look at some of the internal and external barriers to care that each group, and other groups, may face. These barriers answer the question: Why does the path to health equity have more obstacles more minoritized groups?
- Lack of insurance, underinsurance
- Mental illness stigma, often greater among minority populations
- Lack of diversity among mental health care providers
- Lack of culturally competent providers
- Language barriers
- Distrust in the health care system
- Inadequate support for mental health service in safety net settings (uninsured, Medicaid, Health Insurance Coverage other vulnerable patients)
One of the biggest barriers to care worth highlighting is mental health stigma. Unfortunately, mental health stigma exists everywhere. For minoritized groups, it may have an even greater impact. Take a look at the 7 seven types of stigma outlined in the chart below.
The Importance of Community & Spreading Awareness
At this point, you should now have a better understanding of minoritized groups, the health disparities that occur in each of the groups we discussed, and some of the barriers to care that each group may face. This information may seem overwhelming (and downright unfair) and you may be left with the question: What can I do about these disparities? We’re glad you asked! The answer is simple: work together to spread awareness and reduce stigma. Here are a few ways that you can get involved to help reduce major health disparities among minoritized groups:
- Learn more about mental health.
- Increase cultural competence and become aware of your own attitudes and beliefs to reduce implicit bias and negative assumptions.
- Embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Encourage stigma free conversations.
- Lend your voice.
- Policy change.
- Advocacy, outreach, and education.
- Show compassion and seek to understand the experience of individuals with identities different from your own.
And here are a few resources that may help you get started in your noble pursuit towards health equity:
While chipping away at health inequities may seem like a daunting task, we like to summon the wise words of Desmond Tutu: “There is only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.” During your research, if you find yourself wondering how you can make an even bigger impact, right here in Nassau County, we encourage you to explore our Ambassadors Program. The Ambassadors Program is Starting Point’s inaugural volunteer program that takes ordinary citizens interested in mental health and turns them into behavioral health advocates that reduce stigma related to mental health and substance use disorders. It was born out of the piece of our mission that ‘promotes emotional wellness through community education and awareness.’
We know that the biggest way to make a difference is by working together. When you’re ready, join the Starting Point Ambassador Program, start taking bigger bites out of the mental health elephant, and work with us in our pursuit to make health equity a reality in Nassau County and Northeast Florida.
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