July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, representing an opportunity to highlight the intersectionality between race and mental health, the importance of community and culture in addressing and alleviating the effects of stigma on receiving proper healthcare, and the importance of fostering and nurturing connections in and outside of treatment.
There are still disparities in the ease of access to mental healthcare resources for racial and ethnic minorities in the US, as well as unhelpful stereotypes or stigma attached to mental health issues on a cultural level. This month, we wish to draw attention to these problems, as well as highlight ways in which families and local communities can benefit from existing initiatives, available resources, and ongoing programs to help their loved ones, and reach out to others around them.
The Importance of Acknowledging Diversity in Mental Healthcare
National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is highlighted by the contributions and works of the late Bebe Moore Campbell, author, journalist, and teacher. In 1992, Campbell published her debut novel, “Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine”, which centered on the pain and suffering that racial injustice can inflict on a family, inspired by the senseless lynching of Emmett Till in 1955.
Afterwards, she went on to publish several books highlighting the way race and mental health intersect, and the struggles that minority families face when navigating the mental healthcare system, as well as the various cultural stigmas around seeking and receiving mental healthcare.
Although she passed away in 2006, Campbell’s contributions as an author and journalist, especially in the fields of mental health and intersectionality, are continuously honored and highlighted by organizations including the National Alliance on Mental Health, which presented Campbell with her first Outstanding Literature Award in 2003. Campbell’s works and own lived experiences call attention to the differences in healthcare access for minorities, as well as the impact that generational trauma and discrimination can have on mental health.
Our stories are not just our own, but the culmination of countless experiences over generations. The discrimination experienced by racial and ethnic minorities in the past continues to have ramifications in the present.
Culture, Community, and Connection in Mental Health
What does culture, community, and connection represent in mental healthcare? To us, these elements are the catalyst for positive change in mental health outcomes.
Rephrasing the narrative on mental health issues in the context of a community’s culture is important. Recognizing and standing up for your own or a loved one’s mental health issue can be a sign of strength, not weakness.
“’Therapy can be perceived to be for white people, anxiety as a white problem, depression is a white issue.’ There is guilt around seeking mental healthcare for people of color,” says Sylvia Martin, M.A., therapist, and psychological assistant at Amend Treatment.
“For many, there is a fear of allowing those who oppress us into our minds; fear of pathologizing culture, allowing cultural practices – practices that are unique and beautiful – can be tainted by a clinician who lacks the background or understanding of the person or the culture to process them.
“For people of color, daily experiences of racism can affect their psychological evaluations, which can be misinterpreted by clinicians without a cultural lens,” says Martin. “It’s important to address the impact that an increase in bi-cultural relationships can have on complicating views on mental health, build cultural competency and humility in clinical settings, and understand that misunderstood cultural differences should be addressed without undermining the love and connection between couples and families.”
It’s communities, not single individuals, that compel the kind of change needed for better care to become a reality. Once care is dispensed, it’s those same communities – and the strength of their connections and support systems – that might play the biggest role in a person’s mental health outcomes.
Our Commitment to Cultural Humility
Amend Treatment provides the best quality of care possible to each individual client. “Amend does not shy away from the fact that luxury mental health services are not actively available for most people of color,” says Siana Walker, B.A., Deputy Program Director at Amend Treatment. “We are actively looking for and creating awareness to meet this need.”
Amend strives to foster an environment that helps each client feel comfortable, to help them trust in the process, and work with their families to build a better understanding of mental health issues, future concerns, and resources for continued recovery. “There is a challenge in working in mental healthcare, because I am not available within my community”, says Walker. “But our goal is to create a space where this environment is welcoming, and competent in providing services to members of my community.”
Circumstances, such as ethnicity and cultural backgrounds, can unfortunately affect outcomes negatively wherever access to care and support is concerned. Much of our programs are dedicated towards helping friends and families set up better support networks for their loved ones.
Resources for Support
If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health issue, it can be hard to know where to turn. Navigating your options can feel overwhelming. If you’re not sure where to start, calling for help is always a good first step.
If you want to learn more about National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, visit the Department of Health & Human Services.
If you want to find a local treatment facility, you can try out FindTreatment.gov.
You’re far from alone. Mental health issues may be on the rise, but so are our abilities to identify, address, and help each other cope with these issues.