There is a large population of people on the planet who are divided into diverse groups that are used to define each other and sometimes used to discriminate as well. This not only creates social and political issues but also mental health issues that cause a threat to the well-being of these people.
Racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities often suffer from poor mental health due to multiple factors including inaccessibility of high quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental illness, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health.
Historically, mental health has been overlooked in many ethnic and racial minority groups. Although cases of mental illness tend to be equal or less than their white counterparts, minorities are less likely to seek care, which increases the risk of developing more serious, life-threatening issues over time.
There are multiple reasons as to why people in minority groups are unable to receive the help they need. Some of these reasons are that access can be limited by lack of insurance coverage. People with limited resources also experience logistical barriers, such as having to take time off from work, securing child care or finding transportation to and from appointments. Linguistic and cultural differences, particularly in immigrant populations can result in breakdowns in communication that lead to poorer health outcomes.
Lack of qualified professionals to evaluate, diagnose and treat such conditions is another factor fuelling uneven coverage. Even in areas with high densities of mental health professionals, minority groups report high rates of poor mental health.
“Quality, affordable care is necessary for those with limited resources.”
There are many barriers that limit people in these groups from being able to access the tools and help they deserve but there are also ways to help remove these obstacles such as:
Changing the Primary Care Setting
By changing the primary care practice to evaluate a patient’s mental health, providers are better able to identify the need for mental health care during regular check-ups. Doctors can also discuss preventative care as it relates to mental health, whether it’s reducing stress, exercising, or simply recognizing possible signs of poor mental health.
Increasing Affordability: Quality, affordable care is necessary for those with limited resources. In an effort to address this need in the mental health space, we should donate and raise funds for organizations that help in providing mental health services to at-risk groups, particularly low-income families and seniors.
Promoting Diversity: Understanding different cultures, traditions and religious beliefs is an important step to building trust within minority communities. It’s also imperative to employ a diverse staff which is representative of multiple ethnic groups and language capabilities. It’s a show of solidarity that signifies an investment in not just a patient’s health, but their livelihood.
Raising Awareness: A key way to combat mental health stigma is through education and professional guidance. Mental illness affects everyone differently, and there is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis or treatment. With the help of a primary care physician, patients from every community can learn how to successfully manage their mental health in the long run.
Even the smallest step can help save a life and change the world, but change begins with us. Stigma and discrimination is not only inhuman but completely barbaric and should be abolished immediately. The new generation needs to be educated as they will make change happen, but only if we step up.