Is your organization properly addressing minority mental health? Understanding the unique needs of minorities is imperative to lasting community change. By finding strength in communities, health and human service groups can better serve individuals and families.
Minority Mental Health Awareness
The past decade has seen a radical shift in the way we talk about mental health. While stigma still exists around mental illness and care, more communities are stepping up to address this important public health issue. But the question remains, are all communities receiving the same attention?
July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, which focuses on bringing attention to the barriers minorities face while receiving mental health care. The more health and human service organizations understand this disparity, the better they can bridge the gap and make lasting change.
Social Determinants of Mental Health
One in six Americans experience a diagnosable, treatable mental health condition. This statistic remains fairly constant across a variety of racial and ethnic groups. What does not remain constant, however, is the actual treatment such individuals receive. Large disparities exist that showcase how minorities are much less likely to be diagnosed and treated for mental illness.
Why is this the case? Experts agree that social determinants of health play a large part.
These determinants are defined as the, “conditions where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health and quality of life risks and outcomes”. They consist of factors besides healthcare that impact our health.
A variety of social determinants—including access to healthcare, insurance coverage, transportation, and even access to food—significantly increase an individual’s risk of experiencing adverse mental health while simultaneously decreasing ability to access care. Unfortunately, racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to experience these adverse social determinants.
Systemic discrimination plays a large role in limiting minority communities from improving the determinants of those around them. As such, strengthening communities through improving social determinants of health is a critical step in addressing minority mental health concerns.
The Role of Social Services
Health and human service organizations have been among the first programs to understand the importance of addressing social determinants of health. While health and social services may value the intersectionality that minority identities can bring, they still must recognize the internal biases and challenges that exist. This is particularly important when it comes to mental health care.
For example, studies show that healthcare providers are significantly less likely to properly identify and diagnose the severity of mental health illness in minorities. Even when they purport to be affirming and inclusive practices, internalilzed discrimination and microaggressions play a role in gatekeeping mental health care.
What Your Organization Can Do
Despite the present barriers, there are many measures your health and human service organization can take to better minority mental health. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, improving mental health services takes time. Even if your organization does not directly provide mental health services, you can still play a part in better providing holistic care to those who need it most.
The more communities are strengthened, the better they can collectively address the social determinants at play for mental health care. Consider the following tools:
- Education and Awareness
Knowledge is the first step in making change, and mental health care is no exception. Talking about internalized discrimination, social determinants of health, and racial and ethnic disparities in social services are a great place to start.
- Care Coordination
To strengthen your community, you need to strengthen your coordination. Getting to know the services in your area is important to improving care coordination. As you work with other social services in your community, you can work together to bridge the gaps created by adverse social determinants.
- Policy Changes
Policy is another important way to help improve minority mental health. This can come in many forms, whether it is advocating for better public transportation or increased funding for mental health clinics in underserved neighborhoods.
- Case Management
Another critical tool for improving minority mental health services is effective case management. Platforms like industry-leading ClientTrack™ help organizations keep track of those they serve while coordinating with other programs to offer the best whole person care available.
- Advocacy and Outreach
The fifth tool we recommend is working towards better advocacy and outreach. Advocacy goes hand-in-hand with education, awareness, and policy change. Consider participating in Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by advocating in your community.
More than anything else, it is important to recognize the strength that comes from community. As we work towards better mental health care for minorities, we will likewise be able to lift our communities as a whole.