Approximately 18.6 percent of Americans (43.7 million) live with mental health disorders in the United States and an alarming 60 percent of them do not receive treatment for their condition, especially those from diverse backgrounds. The prevalence of mental health disorders appears to be comparable across most demographics, but sadly the mental health treatment rate among minorities appears to be significantly lower than that of Caucasians.
Some minorities have higher rates of poverty compared to white Americans and this social barrier is even more apparent in how minorities are being treated for mental health disorders. This directly impacts how often these groups seek to be insured and therefore, whether or not they can even afford different services such as psychiatric help and/or mental health inpatient treatment.
Social stigmas among different subcultures also play an immense role in how resistant minorities are in seeking help for mental health disorders. Some minorities have been subject to much discrimination and therefore, are more reluctant to trust the mental health care system.
The stigma towards mental health care and finding proper treatment for it in African American communities still runs deep today. The African American community has shown to be more resistant towards exhibiting vulnerability and seeking help for mental illnesses.
- 9 percent suffer from mental illnesses
- They reported to use mental health treatment at half the rate of white Americans
- About 25 percent are uninsured. Many with private coverage are still less likely to use mental health services
- Regarding disorders like schizophrenia, they are more likely to be misdiagnosed than white Americans
- 3 percent suffer from mental illnesses
- Suicide attempts for Hispanic girls 9-12th grade were 60 percent higher than that of white girls in the same age group
- Approximately 37 percent of Hispanic Americans are uninsured – double the rate of white Americans
- They are the least likely ethnic group to have health insurance
- 6 percent suffer from mental illnesses
- They exhibited the lowest rates for utilizing mental health services of any ethnic group in the United States
- They utilize mental health services when ethnic matching is used
American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- Have the highest rate of mental illnesses among all ethnic groups (28.3 percent)
- Two-thirds continue to still use traditional healers
- In one study, poverty appeared to be less of a trigger for mental illnesses than that for white children
Unfortunately, discrimination and prejudice still exist in American society and this often leads to more resistance among minorities to seek help. Studies have shown that fear of treatment, discrimination by individuals and businesses, differences in communication patterns and mistrust of treatment all place an integral role in how individuals of minorities are more reluctant to seek mental health treatment.
The lack of proper mental health treatment within minority communities can be directly linked to other major issues outside of mental health. Lower income levels and substandard living conditions appear to contribute to how compliant an individual could be with authority. A study done by the Journal of the American Medical Association surveyed children living on an American Indian reservation, who had a variety of mental health issues. The study tracked the behavior before and after a casino was built on the reservation. Before the casino was built, the children appeared to be much more disruptive and defiant towards authority. Once the casino was built, the children’s living conditions improved and, soon after, their behavior matched those who had never lived in poverty.
Fortunately, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has put together the Minority Fellowship Program. This program works to reduce the health care gap among minorities and improve healthcare outcomes of diverse populations. More than 120 psychologists from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds are trained every year under the Minority Fellowship Program. This program is one of a few initiatives that have taken action to change the mental health care disparities among minorities in the United States today. Other programs like the National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health and the National Alliance of Multi-Ethnic Behavioral Health Associations were formed with support from SAMHSA and provide training to community-based organizations to that work with minority groups.
Mental illnesses affect a large population of Americans and can be extremely detrimental to an individual’s well-being if they are left untreated for prolonged periods of time. If you or someone you know is suffering from a mental illness and is in need of mental health treatment, please call the California Depression Helpline at 855-678-0400.