Did You Know July Is Minority Mental Health Month?

Mental healthcare has gotten better in recent decades. However, it still has a long way to go, especially in regards to how minority groups receive treatment.

July is Minority Mental health Awareness Month and for good reason. The problems facing racial, cultural, ethnic, and social minorities, when it comes to mental healthcare, are something that many people either don’t realize or overlook. To help better understand why this issue deserves more attention, here is what you should know about how this month came about and why it is important.

How Minority Mental Health Awareness Month Began

July was officially recognized as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008 by the House of Representatives. This induction came after Linda Wharton-Boyd advocated for the change after being inspired by her friend Bebe Moore Campbell, the co-founder of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Urban Los Angeles (NAMI).

Although Campbell lost her battle with cancer in 2006, Wharton-Boyd and NAMI continue fighting for equal access to mental health resources and the erasure of the stigma that surrounds it.

One major part of their fight is highlighting how minorities struggle to access mental healthcare resources, receive sub-par treatment, or are stigmatized due to their mental health. This culminates in July, making it a time to draw wider attention to these issues so that a wider audience can learn more about these issues.

Issues Minorities Face

Many members of racial, cultural, ethnic, and social minorities face difficulties when it comes to getting adequate help for their mental health. There are numerous contributing factors to this, all of which need to be highlighted.

Social Stigma

Minorities often face social stigma when it comes to seeking mental health treatment. Mental health issues are either not talked about for cultural reasons or the members of these groups face stereotypes that make access seem shameful. Many may think that by admitting that they need help, that they will be feeding into the stereotypes that label them as inferior or less.

Dismantling these cultural or societal stigmas is imperative for helping clear the path for minority groups so that they access the mental health services they need.

By making it known that there is no shame in seeking help, and accepting that mental health problems can affect anyone, this barrier can be worn away over time. While this isn’t a change that can take place overnight, reaffirming it can help when it comes to making lasting changes in the future. 

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Along with social stigmas, poverty is another of the largest hurdles that minorities face when it comes to accessing mental health services. With healthcare costs as high as they are, those in poverty can hardly afford regular doctor’s visits, let alone a psychiatrist or psychologist.

When you’re living paycheck to paycheck, medical care becomes a luxury, and mental health care even more so. Adding to this, racial disparities in income and poverty run deep, and Black, Hispanic, and Native American populations experience poverty in larger quantities than Caucasians in America.

While those living in poverty usually qualify for Medicaid services, this leads to the next problem that minorities face.

Low-Quality Care

Medicaid can help low-income individuals access needed healthcare services and it can even cover some mental health treatment. However, these services are usually of the lowest quality. This is compounded by the fact that not all providers accept Medicaid, and those that do are usually stretched too thin to provide the care that should be expected.

This sub-par treatment can end up doing more harm than good, especially if serious issues are written off or misdiagnosed. Mental health is a complicated field, and without quality care, patients risk having their problems not treated properly.

Spreading the Message

In July, the most important thing you can do is help spread the word about the problems minorities face when it comes to accessing mental health services. By talking openly about these problems, you can help break down the barriers that hold minorities back so that they can get the care and treatment that they deserve.

No one deserves to struggle alone with their mental health, and no one should ever feel ashamed to seek help. This July, and all year long, keep these issues in mind and speak out about them so that real change can happen.

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