Article by Maya
Edited by Madeleine and Audrey
Mental health, although recognized as important, is still heavily stigmatized within the United States. Not only does this stigma decrease the likelihood of a person reaching out for help, but it also causes mental health services to be underfunded, understaffed, and less likely to be covered by insurance. This forces those struggling with mental health to often not reach out for help, creating a public perception in which everyone is mentally healthy. That, however, is not the case. According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates in the United States jumped 24% from 1999-2014. Currently, 1 in 6 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. However, even with these statistics, mental health services continue to have low accessibility, especially for minorities (USC Department of Nursing).
Minorities, whether they be ethnic, racial, or cultural, are overall more likely to experience a mental health condition. According to the American Counseling Association, those in marginalized groups experience unique challenges, trauma, stress, concerns, and obstacles, which often cause them to need specialized care. These challenges are mainly due to historical context, cultural disparities, and/or social disparities, all of which create significant hardships that may be difficult to understand if the mental health professional has not experienced said challenge themselves. Furthermore, Allison Davenport, the CEO for Brynn Marr Hospital, has stated that “racial + sexual minorities experience heightened levels of anxiety, depression, suicide, PTSD, and other disorders” (Davenport). However, these minorities are also the least likely to reach out for help or get quality care, creating a dangerous paradox.
Those in minority groups face significantly more challenges when they have a need for mental health services. In fact, these challenges often start before they even step foot into a therapist’s office. More than half of uninsured Americans are people of color, meaning that they would have to pay for therapy out of pocket. This quickly becomes expensive, and when they no longer can afford therapy, they are required to leave, no matter the circumstances. Even if a patient is insured, insurance does not always cover mental health services, and if it does, it may limit the amount of services covered, once again creating a financial barrier for those in need of assistance.
One of the largest issues that minority groups face in mental health treatment is the lack of cultural diversity in the mental health field. Because therapists and other mental health professionals are predominantly white, it is difficult for minorities to find professionals that understand the systemic oppression, cultural influences, and other events that would influence how they view the world and their mental health. This often leads to minorities feeling unsatisfied with or dropping out of mental health services. This is especially worrying because, according to the USC Department of Nursing, minorities are more likely to experience mental illness risk factors. However, they are less likely to get help for it, and when they do, it is less likely to be effective.
Language also poses a significant barrier within mental health services. If someone does not speak English or would prefer to have therapy in another language, it is harder to find a provider with those qualifications. When a translator is used, the severity of issues and cultural contexts are often undermined, as it can be difficult to translate complex emotions and culture across languages. If a provider does speak a language other than English, prices will generally be higher, forcing those in need of services to either pay out of pocket or simply not go at all.
Even if therapy has been seemingly successful, the diagnosis process for minorities is significantly different than that of their white counterparts. According to the American Psychological Association, minorities are more likely to experience a use of emergency services instead of support, involuntary hospitalization, higher doses of anti-psychotics, and an over-diagnosis of schizophrenia. Additionally, minorities are less likely to receive support for depression, and instead are commonly referred to emergency treatment or hospitalization. Overall, this causes for minority mental health care to be subpar, significantly harming both their individual communities and the country as a whole.
Cover Image: https://www.family-action.org.uk/worried/