eNewsletter - June 2020

Racial Disparities in Mental Health Care: How You Can Help

The world is still reeling weeks after the most recent incident of racial injustice with George Floyd’s death by police officers in Minneapolis. Protests have erupted all over the world in response and people of all races are sharing their disdain for the long history of systemic racism in America.

This systemic racism has led to injustices and disparities in all corners of our society, including our health care system. When compared to white people, people of color have less access to health care and are more likely to be uninsured. This can lead to reluctance in seeking care when needed and decrease in diagnosis of major and minor health issues.

There are specific barriers to receiving mental health care for all people, but for communities of color, availability, access and quality of care is even more challenging. The American Psychiatric Association reports that in 2015, among adults with any mental illness diagnosis, 48% of whites received mental health services, compared with 31% of Blacks and Hispanics, and 22% of Asians.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness shares the following potential reasons for this:

  • A lack of availability
  • Transportation issues, difficulty finding childcare/taking time off work
  • The belief that mental health treatment “doesn’t work”
  • Mental health stigma in minority populations
  • A mental health system weighted heavily towards non-minority values and culture norms
  • Racism, bias and discrimination in treatment settings
  • Language barriers and an insufficient number of providers who speak languages other than English
  • A lack of adequate health insurance coverage (and even for people with insurance, high deductibles and co-pays make it difficult to afford)

At a time when all people are dealing with increased stress related to global pandemic health and financial concerns as well as racial injustices, it’s more important than ever that mental health advocates help people of color identify and access the care they need. Consider which of the following action steps you can take:

Join and participate in mental health organizations. Your involvement gives you access and opportunity to encourage these organizations to build staff and boards of directors with minority representation who can help provide the insight, experience and perspective needed to effect change.

Make it political. While racism is a human issue, racial disparities in health care are also a political one. Connect with legislators to improve the availability, access and quality of mental health care for minorities in your area and beyond.

Speak out. If you’re not a member of a minority race, it can be daunting to speak out for fear of inadvertently saying something wrong. But using your voice to speak out for racial equality in mental health raises awareness of all. Look for opportunities to share your thoughts publicly, as a spokesperson about mental health access for minorities, or even on your social media accounts. And know that you may make a mistake. If you do, apologize, learn from it and move on.

Educate yourself. There are lists of books, movies, podcasts and ways to take action against racial injustice circulating on social media. Seek out these lists and expand your understanding of the history, the problems and the ways in which you can make an impact. Check out this list of resources

As a health provider, you have likely experienced the challenges and disparities that minority races face in relation to mental health care firsthand. Recognize that your role places you in a unique position to take steps that will make a difference in improving access, availability and quality of mental health care for all people. Commit to getting more involved in this important effort today.

Finding more resources. Linden Oaks welcomes all people who seek mental health care, and is here to help. To connect with one of our certified therapists, please call the Linden Oaks Help Line 24 hours a day at (630) 305-5027 and one of our assessment professionals will assist.