By Kayt Sukel
More than 60 million Americans suffer from a mental health condition in a given year. Many of those individuals are African American, Hispanic, Asian American, or part of another minority population. Yet, studies suggest that African American and Hispanic Americans seek treatment at only half the rate of whites, while Asian Americans only do so at one-third the rate. Some of these differences are due to access to care; some are cultural. But the differences are striking enough that the U.S. House of Representatives named July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008.
Bebe Campbell Moore was a popular American author who often tackled subjects of mental illness, stigma, and lack of treatment in her books, and had long fought to end mental health stigma in minority communities. She and her colleague, Linda Wharton-Boyd, were the ones who first worked to have a month dedicated solely to promote awareness of mental health issues in minority populations—and encourage those dealing with mental health conditions to seek treatment.
And the need is real. The mental health disparities across the United States are alarming. Did you know:
- Recent studies suggest 14 percent of Native American and Alaskan Native adults had both mental and substance abuse disorders;
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers;
- More than 16 percent of those who identify as Black or African American have been diagnosed with a mental health condition in the past year, and it’s estimated that only one in three of those individuals will receive mental health care.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, minority populations are less likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition—and also have less access to adequate care. But with greater awareness, increased funding for mental health care, and campaigns to encourage those in marginalized groups to seek treatment, we have it within our power to diminish those disparities and help those who are needlessly suffering.
To learn more about how you can help bring about change—and to find local Minority Mental Health Awareness events in your local area—visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)’s Minority Mental Health Month page. By working together, we can help bring America closer to being stigma-free when it comes to mental health, for people of all races, creeds, and colors.
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