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The State of Minority Mental Health

Imagine always being told that you shouldn’t show emotion because it is a weak trait. Imagine growing up without your father, living below the poverty line and not having access to proper medical care. Imagine being treated differently because of the color of your skin; constantly living in fear and dealing with trauma from the relentless number of viral videos of police interactions and altercations involving men and women of color of any age.

These are only a few of the issues plaguing communities of color in America because of a lack of access to proper mental health care.

But, I Thought Everyone has Access to Medical Care?

“There is a lack of sufficient mental health professionals working in the public health system — in community health clinics or for county departments of mental health, for instance,” reported The Nation’s Health.

Multicultural and other minority beneficiaries on average reported worse mental health functioning and more symptoms of depression when compared to white people, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of Minority Health. Individuals identifying as multi ethnic were the minority most likely to report poor mental health and to be physically unable to participate in daily activities due to mental health concerns. The average number of most days missed from work or recreation was 11.6.

In general, depression was widely reported as the most common mental health condition across all minorities. Here’s a deeper dive into the numbers:

  1. Puerto Ricans reported the highest rate of depression at 40 percent. All other Hispanic groups ranged from 30.8 (“other” Hispanic) to 34.5 percent (Cuban).
  2. Black beneficiaries had a 27.1 percent rate of depression nationwide.
  3. American Indian and Alaskan Native Medicare beneficiaries reported rates of depression 9 percent greater than white beneficiaries. Other Pacific Islander groups reported rates of depression 14.4 percent more often than white beneficiaries.

Lack of culturally competent care has the potential to result in worse outcomes than those who do not seek help in the first place.

Not only do we need to ensure people of color receive adequate mental health care, we also need to ensure that trained health professionals are culturally equipped, empathetic, non-judgmental and able to understand, relate and properly diagnose each patient who walks into their office.

According to the U.S Census Bureau, it is estimated that non-white racial and ethnic groups will represent more than 56 percent of the population by 2050. Of those, 39 percent are projected to be 65 or older and non-white.

With population trajectory numbers like these, it is gravely important to address racial and ethnic health disparities.

One way to help aid the mental health survival of minorities is to become trained and certified to identify signs of depression or substance use challenges among your loved ones and people in your community. Find a Mental Health First Aid course near you and #BeTheDifference in the life of someone who may need your support today.