National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month: Addressing stigma of mental illness in minority communities

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month: Addressing stigma of mental illness in minority communities

Some of the most serious and enfeebling diseases stem from disorders of the mind. Various federal agencies report the high prevalence of mental health problems in the United States. While mentally ill people frequently cite skyrocketing expenses and lack of insurance as common reasons that prohibit them from seeking necessary professional care, factors such as fear of stigma or being subject to discrimination are also possible considerations that coerce some to discard the idea of looking for adequate medical interventions.

The situation is even worse when it comes to providing mental health care to minority population. According to the Mental Health America (MHA), there are about 46 million Black or African Americans in the country and over 16 percent of them had a diagnosable mental disorder in the previous year. The MHA also says that though some progress has been made in the recent years, racism continues to take its toll on the mental health of Black/African Americans.

Barriers to accessing mental health care among minorities

The accessibility of treatment for psychiatric disorders does not commensurate with the number of mentally disoriented patients. According to the Office of Minority Health (OMH), Department of Health and Human Services, scope for proper diagnosis and medical care given to mental patients is low in those belonging to minority groups. In addition to reduced accessibility and availability of mental health services, minorities often have to be content with low quality of medical care.

Racial and ethnic minorities — apart from those belonging to differing sexual orientations such as lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people — have to face the brunt of greater mental health risks considering the level of backlash they face in their daily lives. Discrepancy in treatment availability and quality because of stigma continues to hamper the idea of equal and requisite care for all.

Mental health advocates and social networking groups are constantly raising their voices against stigma and inequalities in the quality of treatment available to minorities seeking respite from the pain and trauma of mental illnesses. The wall of silence around mental illnesses, especially among this population, needs to be broken. The concepts of stigma, discrimination and their effects on mental health have always been discussed in hushed tones, and hence, an open discussion is imperative. Looking at the magnitude of the burden on the families of such mentally ill patients and what they go through, it is necessary to get rid of the idea of condemnation against a few based on color, origin or sexuality.

To raise awareness of mental illness among minority communities in the U.S., July is observed as the National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. In May 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives designated this month with an aim to improve access to mental health treatment and services.

Bringing about necessary change

In the words of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate. It oppresses.” Substantial investment of financial and human resources is necessary to create the much needed infrastructure to cure mental health crisis.

If you or your loved one is dealing with any form of mental illness and is looking to avail the mental health facilities in California, Sovereign Health can help. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-973-7164 or chat online with one of our representatives to know more about our state-of-the-art mental health rehabilitation centers in California.

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