The month of July is not only noteworthy for Independence Day and the joys of mid-summer. It is also national Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Established in 2008 by the U.S. House of Representatives in memory of mental health advocate and author Bebe Moore Campbell, Minority Mental Health Awareness Month aims to:
- Improve minority access to mental health treatment.
- Promote greater public awareness of mental illness, particularly in minority communities.
Minority populations have an incidence of mental illness comparable to the population as a whole. For example, while white Americans have a 19.3% rate of mental illness, black individuals have an 18.6% incidence, while Hispanics have a 16.3% rate.
However, minority populations may be impacted in significant ways that affect their recovery. According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s report, minorities are less likely to receive assessment and treatment, have less access to mental health services, and are not sufficiently reflected in mental health research.
Additionally, certain minority populations may experience various factors that increase their risk for mental health problems and/or hinder recovery. These include factors associated with poverty and poor physical health.
In our southwest Georgia area, our culturally diverse populations include African Americans and Latinos. Let’s take a look at some of the mental health facts about these two groups:
- ·African Americans have an increased risk for serious mental health problems due to such factors as homelessness and trauma. They make up 40% of the U.S. homeless population and are more likely to be victims of violent crime, for example.
- ·Only 25% of African Americans with mental illness seek treatment, compared to 40% of the white population.
- ·African Americans are approximately 20% more likely to suffer a serious mental illness than the general population, largely due to unmet social needs and treatment barriers.
- ·Among Latinos, the most common mental health disorders include major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and alcoholism.
- ·Latina high school students have rates of suicide attempts above the general population.
- ·Only 20% of Latinos with mental health symptoms discuss their concerns with a doctor, and only 10% seek the assistance of a mental health professional.
If you would like to obtain more information about how mental illness affects minority populations, you can download a colorful infographic here. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) also has additional resources on its website.
Why is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month important? Our community is only as strong as its individual members. Public awareness reduces stigma and other barriers to care. Services ARE available in our community for those in need. Reach out to others in need and let them know that help is available, and recovery is possible.