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National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

By USCRI July 1, 2024

Written by: Rosalind Ghafar Rogers, PhD, LMHC, Clinical Behavioral Health Subject Matter Expert

with USCRI’s Refugee Health Services in Arlington, VA

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and USCRI recognizes the importance of enhancing public awareness of the unique strengths and mental health challenges that underrepresented and underserved communities of color face and promoting effective strategies that eradicate stigma, break down barriers, and ensure equitable access to culturally responsive mental health support. In recognizing the significance of inclusive, person-first language and respecting the self-identification and personhood of all people and communities of color, the term Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) will be used going forward instead of the term ‘minority.’

The U.S. is more diverse and multiracial than ever before. Over 40% of the U.S. population are BIPOC (U.S. Census, 2020) and 13.9% of the U.S. population in 2022 were foreign-born immigrants (U.S. Census, 2024). Despite the growing diversity of the U.S. population – a growth trend projected to continue – BIPOC communities continue to fare worse across various measures of health, mental health, health care, and social determinants of health. These longstanding systemic disparities are rooted in historical and ongoing racism and ethnic discrimination and have a significant impact on the physical and mental health of BIPOC communities. As a result, BIPOC communities face unique challenges that negatively impact their mental health and lived experiences. Consider the following:

  • Approximately 23% of all adults in the U.S. have a mental illness (Reinert et al., 2022).
  • Although rates of mental illness in some BIPOC groups are comparable or slightly lower than in White people, mental illness among BIPOC is likely to be more persistent and BIPOC often bear a disproportionately high burden of disability resulting from mental illnesses (APA, n.d.). Research suggests that a lack of culturally sensitive screening tools that detect mental illness, coupled with structural barriers could contribute to underdiagnosis of mental illness among people of color (Ndugga et al., 2024).
  • People who identify as being two or more races (25%) are most likely to report any mental illness within the past year than any other race/ethnic group (MHA, n.d.).
  • In 2022, among adults with any mental illness, Hispanic (40%), Black (38%), and Asian (36%) adults were less likely than White adults (56%) to receive mental health services (Ndugga et al., 2024).
  • Nearly one-third of Muslim Americans perceived discrimination in health care settings (Aftab & Khandai, 2018).
  • About one out of three asylum seekers and refugees experience high rates of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD; Turrini et al., 2017). Approximately 3% of refugees are referred to mental health services after receiving a screening (Song & Teichholtz, n.d.).

In general, BIPOC groups are less likely to access and seek out mental health services and are more likely to receive poor quality of care or services that are not linguistically or culturally appropriate. What factors contribute to these disparities?

Systemic racism and discrimination can contribute to mental health disparities in BIPOC communities. For example, most BIPOC groups have lower levels of educational attainment and median net worth and are less likely to own a home or have access to a vehicle compared to their White counterparts (Ndugga et al., 2024). Research has consistently shown associations between social determinants of health, such as lower socioeconomic status, lower educational attainment, unemployment or underemployment, and inadequate housing and higher rates of psychological distress, depression, anxiety, and PTSD (Hynie, 2018; Li et al., 2016; Ndugga et al., 2024; Ziersch et al., 2020). Direct experiences of racism or discrimination against BIPOC have been associated with depression, anxiety, mistrust, hypertension, hypervigilance, obesity, substance use, and less sense of belonging and control (Ndugga et al., 2024; Ziersch et al., 2020). Systemic racism and experiences of racial or ethnic discrimination also contribute to barriers in seeking and receiving appropriate mental health care. The lack of diversity among mental health providers can create a gap in experiences and understanding between providers and BIPOC seeking support.

For many BIPOC communities, the stigma attached to mental health can serve as a deterrent to seeking help. This stigma can stem from historical experiences, cultural norms and beliefs, misconceptions, and fears of being judged or misunderstood.

So, how can we address mental health in BIPOC communities? First and foremost, by breaking the silence, raising awareness, and uplifting and elevating the voices and lived experiences of BIPOC communities, including migrants and refugees.

  • Break the stigma of mental health by promoting open dialogue, challenging stereotypes, and promoting awareness and education about mental health and seeking support.
  • Increase representation and encourage diversity within the mental health field by recruiting and supporting mental health professionals from BIPOC communities.
  • Develop and implement culturally responsive or relevant healing practices that provide a holistic approach to healing and integrate cultural and historical knowledge, spirituality, and traditional healing techniques and practices into mental health programming and interventions. Culturally responsive services recognize the importance of BIPOC clients identifying sources of trauma and systems of oppression. In addition, culturally responsive healing is grounded in empowerment and collectivism and evolves through the processes of resilience, resistance, hope, and restorative justice (French et al., 2020).
  • Community-based support plays a critical role in promoting mental health in BIPOC communities by fostering a sense of belonging and solidarity where individuals can share their experiences, seek both formal and informal support, and find comfort in shared historical and cultural values and traditions.

 

Mental Health Resources for BIPOC Communities:

Take a free, private online mental health screening HERE. Remember – when we begin to heal ourselves, we heal our communities.

Therapy for Black Girls

Therapy for Black Men

Latinx Therapy

Multicultural Counselors

Inclusive Therapists

 

For resources or more information about USCRI’s Refugee Health Services program for resettled Afghans, please visit: https://refugees.org/the-behavioral-health-support-program-for-afghans/

 

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide or would like emotional support, call or text 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline that is available 24/7. If you or someone you know is having a life-threatening emergency, please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital emergency room.

 

References

Aftab, A. & Khandai, C. (2018). Mental health disparities: Muslim Americans. American Psychiatric Association.

APA (American Psychiatric Association). (n.d.). Mental health disparities: Diverse populations. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatry.org/getmedia/bac9c998-5b2d-4ffa-ace9-d35844b8475a/Mental-Health-Facts-for-Diverse-Populations.pdf

French, B. H., Lewis, J. A., Mosley, D. V., Adames, H. Y., Chavez-Dueñas, N. Y., Chen, G. A., & Neville, H. A. (2020). Toward a Psychological Framework of Radical Healing in Communities of Color. The Counseling Psychologist, 48(1), 14-46. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011000019843506

Hynie M. (2018). The Social determinants of refugee mental health in the post-migration context: A critical review. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry63(5), 297–303.

Li, S. S. Y., Liddell, B. J., & Nickerson, A. (2016). The relationship between post-migration stress and psychological disorders in refugees and asylum seekers. Current Psychiatry Reports, 18(9), 82.

MHA (Mental Health America). (n.d.). How race matters: What we can learn from Mental Health America’s screening in 2020. Retrieved from https://mhanational.org/mental-health-data-2020

Ndugga, N., Hill, L., & Artiga, S. (2024, June). Key data on health and health care by race and ethnicity. KFF. Retrieved from https://www.kff.org/key-data-on-health-and-health-care-by-race-and-ethnicity/?entry=executive-summary-introduction

Reinert, M., Fritze, D., & Nguyen, T. (2022). The State of Mental Health in America 2023. Mental Health America. Retrieved from https://www.mhanational.org/sites/default/files/2023-State-of-Mental-Health-in-America-Report.pdf

Song, S. & Teichholtz, S. (n.d.). Mental health facts on refugees, asylum-seekers, & survivors of forced displacement. American Psychiatric Association.

Turrini, G., Purgato, M., Ballette, F., Nose, M., Ostuzzi, G. & Barbui, C. (2017). Common mental disorders in asylum seekers and refugees: umbrella review of prevalence and intervention studies. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 11, 51.

U.S. Census. (2024, April). New report on the Nation’s Foreign-born population. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2024/foreign-born-population.html

U.S. Census. (2020, April). QuickFacts. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/POP010220

Ziersch, A., Due, C. & Walsh, M. (2020). Discrimination: a health hazard for people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds resettled in Australia. BMC Public Health, 20, 108.


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