Minority Mental Health Month: Tracking Mental Illness Among Minorities in America

An estimated one in five adults, or nearly 43.8 million people in the United States, are diagnosed with a mental disorder in a given year. And, regardless of years of research, acceptance of mental illness as a disease remains taboo and mental health conditions among minorities is still a significant public health concern.

Billions of dollars are spent on the mental health-care system each year, yet it is not yet common to deliver treatment to the entire population coping with mental health problems. Treatment for addiction and mental illness can also be a huge expense for minority families, which can hinder many people from seeking and receiving much-needed care.

Apart from the high costs associated with addiction and mental health care, another factor that prevents a large percentage of people from seeking treatment is the stigma that surrounds mental illness. A lot of people living with mental health issues are often found uncertain and unwilling to use the facilities in reverence of being disgraced.

Minority Communities more Inclined to Mental Health Problems

The status is even worse for minority populations who need mental health treatment in the U.S. The phrase ‘minority’ is commonly bracketed to ethnic, racial, or social minorities in America and may also include people from lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ+) community, immigrant groups and refugees, religious communities, and others who are regularly disregarded, per Mental Health America (MHA).

A survey conducted by MHA and the Huffington Post revealed that:

  • A considerable proportion of African American adults (20%) were more likely to be affected by mental health issues than the remaining population.
  • In 2011, around 55 percent of African American adults obtained treatment for their mental illnesses, among which, only 25 percent of African Americans embraced treatment, contrary to 40 percent of white individuals.
  • During the next year (2012), more than 60 percent of non-Hispanic black individuals were diagnosed with a major depressive episode and a negligible proportion of these looked up for professional help.

Furthermore, a growing body of research demonstrates similar disparities among sexual minorities such as LGBT people, who have been found to have surpassing levels of depression, anxiety, suicidal inclination, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental issues, as compared to their heterosexual correlates. Consequently, minorities may try to ease their emotional or mental burden using drugs and alcohol, which can compound mental health conditions and lead to addiction.

The Relationship Between Mental Health Problems and Substance Abuse

Per the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2015, more than four percent of adults who are classified as the LGBT were dependent on alcohol and/or drugs, which can intensify the problem for an already belittled society.

In the wake of a shortage of mental health providers across the country and the ever-persistent stigma associated with minority mental health, the U.S. House of Representatives announced in 2008 that July would be recognized as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Doing so allocates a favourable opportunity to bring awareness to the unique circumstances faced by minorities and help to change the way that minorities feel about seeking and receiving mental health care.

Three Ways to Help Minorities Recover from Mental Health Issues

There are three valuable ideas to consider when aiming to improve the mental health of the minority populations in the U.S.

Knowledge through education: Knowledge can repress the stigma that surrounds mental illness among minorities. Increasing public awareness about mental health issues may help to enlighten society, while also help minorities from seeking help to heal from any type of mental disorder.

Create a unified mental healthcare system for minorities: Minorities, in general, do not tend to engage in activities that promote their mental health. By creating a culturally relevant integrative health care system that holistically focuses on mental, physical, emotional, and behavioural issues among the minorities, we can begin identifying and addressing mental health issues in primary and speciality care.

Support from family, friends and community: According to a national survey of Latinos in 2014, individuals with mental health problems consider their friends and families as their first support with whom they can share their issues. Therefore, a companionable and open conversation regarding mental illness can also provide support.

Tailored Treatment can Help Minorities Recover from Mental Illness

Regardless of gender, age or ethnicity, mental disorders can affect anyone at any given time. One might feel skeptical to approach a clinician or call a treatment facility because of the fear of being judged or singled out. Although these matters are completely understandable, it is still necessary to seek professional help if the symptoms of a mental illness, such as substance abuse, are beginning to interfere with your life.

It is important to know that, like any other physical disorder, mental disorders too can be treated. At AKUA Mind & Body, our clinical team understands that focusing solely on mental health can help one recover from their life-estranging mental problems. Call our 24/7 helpline for more information about our detox, residential treatment or intensive outpatient program (IOP).

References:

https://www.nami.org/About-NAMI/Publications-Reports/Guides/Navigating-a-Mental-Health-Crisis/Navigating-A-Mental-Health-Crisis

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/minority-mental-health-month

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-americans-are-living-longer-but-health-gaps-persist-cdc-says_us_590a044ce4b05c3976853ae1

Gonzales G, Przedworski J, Henning-Smith C. Comparison of Health and Health Risk Factors Between Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults and Heterosexual Adults in the United StatesResults From the National Health Interview Survey. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(9):1344–1351. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.3432

https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-SexualOrientation-2015/NSDUH-SexualOrientation-2015/NSDUH-SexualOrientation-2015.htm

https://www.nami.org/getattachment/Get-Involved/Awareness-Events/National-Minority-Mental-Health-Awareness-Month/Flyers,-Social-Media,-Stories-and-Resources/flyer_nmmham2016.pdf

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