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Four Ways to Show Support This Minority Mental Health Month

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This is a time dedicated to raising awareness of the unique mental health and substance use challenges facing racial minorities and improving access to mental health treatments and services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some members of racial and ethnic minority groups at increased risk of getting COVID-19 or experiencing severe illness, regardless of age.” CDC research shows that as of mid-June 2020, age-adjusted hospitalization rates for COVID-19 are highest among non-Hispanic American Indian, Alaska Native and non-Hispanic Black people, followed by Hispanic people.

With racial inequities like these in the spotlight focusing on minority mental health needs is more important than ever before.

The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum explains that a person’s culture is a combination of their values, norms, expectations and identity. Culture can affect our perceptions, actions and interactions. It can also impact what we believe about health and mental health, how we treat or cope with symptoms, and whether we will do well in treatment. Research shows that the impact of mental health or substance use challenges in minorities may be longer-lasting than in white populations.

While it can feel difficult or uncomfortable at first to talk to someone with a different perspective, experience or culture from your own, it’s important to connect with peers and loved ones to provide support to those who may need it most. This Minority Mental Health Month, take time to learn about other cultures and show support to those around you. Use these tips from the MHFA curriculum to get started and show your support.

  1. Take time to learn. Use the myriad online resources, books and documentaries available to learn more about different cultures and how they are impacted by mental health and substance use challenges. (The Mental Health Coalition has compiled a list of resources that support mental health for the Black community specifically.)
  2. Respect the person’s culture. When you are talking or listening to someone of a different culture, show an attitude of acceptance and respect the person’s feelings, culture, personal values and experiences, even if they are different from your own or you disagree with them. Do not judge, criticize or trivialize what the person says.
  3. Ask questions. It’s OK if you have questions or don’t understand something. Instead of making assumptions, respectfully ask questions that show you genuinely care and want to understand.
  4. Focus on recovery and well-being. Conversations about mental illness are shifting away from only the “illness” or “deficit” way of describing mental illness. It’s more common now to hear people talk about well-being and recovery. When interacting with someone who may be struggling with a mental health or substance use challenge, focus on these topics and encourage them to pursue their own journey to recovery within their cultural practices.

Organizations around the world are working to increase awareness and improve access to mental health treatments for minority populations. Take simple actions to show support to your family, friends, neighbors or even strangers who may be struggling this Minority Mental Health Month.