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Behavioral Health

Understanding Mental Health Barriers for People of Color

Mental illness does not discriminate. Regardless of race or ethnicity, any individual can experience challenges with their mental health. But, for people of color living in the United States, differences in education, housing, employment opportunities, family wealth, and even justice can all play a role in poor mental well-being. 

What’s more, people of color often face racially motivated violence, and the COVID-19 pandemic affected their communities on an unequal level. Despite those added challenges, people of color cope with mental health disorders at a similar rate to whites.

 However, over half of whites with a mental illness received treatment services while only 39% of Blacks and 36% of Hispanics did. That is why it is essential to bring attention to mental health within these groups.

Every May during Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s essential to shine a light on the need for accessible mental health care for all. By working alongside local organizations and health care providers, we can educate people about mental health care, create opportunities for access, and look past the stigma that often accompanies it. 

A man experiencing depression sits on his bed.

Mental Health Struggles are Universal

According to Mental Health America, minority groups face mental health struggles at a startling rate:

  • Latinx/Hispanic Americans — 15% affected (8.9 million people).
  • Black/African Americans — 17% affected (6.8 million people).
  • Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders — 13% affected (2.2 million people).
  • Native Americans/Alaskan Natives — 23% affected (830,000.00 people).
  • Multiracial individuals — 25% affected.

This data underscores the disparities in mental health prevalence across racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., highlighting the need for culturally sensitive and accessible mental health support services.

Mental Health in Children and Teens 

  • From 2000 to 2020, suicide rates for Black youth aged 10-19 increased by a shocking 78%.
  • In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for African Americans aged 15 to 24. It was the leading cause of death for Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders aged 15 to 24.
  • Black and Hispanic children were 14% less likely than white youth to receive treatment for depression.
  • Over one-fourth of Black youth exposed to violence are at elevated risk for PTSD.

Mental Health in Adults 

  • Although depression rates are lower in Blacks and Hispanics than in whites, depression is likely to be more debilitating and persistent among these groups.
  • Black adults are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than other ethnicities.
  • Nearly one in four individuals identifying as being two or more races are most likely to report having a mental health disorder in each year, followed by American Indian/Alaska Natives at 22.7%
  • There’s a stark difference in the treatment for mental illness between whites and minority groups:
    • Non-Hispanic White — 52% 
    • Non-Hispanic Black or African American — 39%
    • Hispanic or Latino — 36%
    • Non-Hispanic Asian — 25%

Mental Health Care Barriers

While recognizing the need for help is the first step, finding affordable care options can be difficult. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “service cost or lack of insurance coverage was the most frequently cited reason for not using mental health services across all racial/ethnic groups.” 

fact sheet published by Resources to Recovery shows the disparity in treatment among ethnicities and the consequences for children, teens, and adults.

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Speaking Up

Sharing your problems with a stranger can feel intimidating and may be disapproved of in certain communities. There is often a shame about “putting your business in the street,” compounded by the lack of understanding surrounding the strict privacy rules between patients and medical professionals. 

The stigma surrounding mental illness affects over 80% of Black Americans, often discouraging them from seeking treatment. Cultural traditions, misunderstandings, and language barriers also prevent access to care for some ethnic groups. Despite these challenges, prioritizing mental health is crucial and should not be ignored.

It takes all of us to help normalize mental health treatment. If you or a loved one are struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide, or any other form of mental distress, it is critical to seek professional help. If you’d like to speak with someone today, you can call or chat with trained counselors ready to help. 

You Don't Have to Deal with Mental Illness Alone

AltaMed is committed to both your whole health. Our experienced staff of diverse mental health professionals can help you with everything from stress relief to referrals for more serious health or substance abuse issues. Call (855)-425-1777 or click here to learn about our behavioral health services.

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Understanding Mental Health Barriers for People of Color