Mental health remains stigmatized in communities of color but another major hurdle BIPOC face is access to mental health resources. While mental illness does not discriminate, unfortunately, our healthcare system does. Fewer than half of all adults in the U.S. who experience mental health disorders actually receive some form of treatment, but minorities receive significantly lower rates of services that they need. Not only are they less likely to utilize treatment, but they are also less likely to use services within their own communities and more likely to receive lower-quality care. We wanted to highlight some of the ways people of color struggle in finding the help they need and share some accessible mental health resources.
Access to Treatment
One of the biggest factors in mental health among minorities is the lack of access to treatment. Not only does access refer to the availability of mental health services, but it also refers to the logistic barriers that face such as transportation, childcare, and getting time off of work. And although some of them may have access to adequate services, most minorities are less likely to seek treatment primarily due to stigma or religion. In a study done by the American Psychological Association, researchers found that individuals from vulnerable populations did not believe that mental health treatment would actually help them.
Lower Quality Care
Some factors that contribute to poor quality care include less participation in treatment decisions and not having an understanding of diagnosis/treatment. Communities of color are also more likely to have jobs that don’t offer healthcare or they can’t afford better quality care. Another issue is that providers often lack cultural competence which can be a huge barrier especially considering Latinx only make up 5.8 percent of physicians in the U.S. Educating providers and healthcare staff about the traditions of healing and the meaning of illness within the populations they serve would improve quality of care among people of color.
Higher Levels of Stigma
Despite mental illnesses having an impact on minorities, it has been surrounded with stigma making it more difficult for people to seek help when they need it most. Spiritual, religious, or cultural beliefs about mental health can be enough to create a barrier between a person and the care they need. Shame is another big factor that can cause people to hide what they are going through from their communities or families.
Language barriers pose challenges between medical providers and patients such as quality of healthcare and patient safety. Many healthcare facilities now offer interpreter services to improve healthcare access and communication. However, these services usually increase cost and duration of treatment. Training and hiring medical staff who speak the language of the target population and who are from the same culture as those whom they are serving may help improve the issue of language barriers. This needs to extend beyond communities with a large population of color, it should be the standard, not a limited practice. This will allow for improved access to quality specialized care as well, which is often more limited in general.
Lower Rates of Health Insurance
Race and ethnicity not only contribute to mental illness, but lack of money is often a major factor regarding treatment. Since the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, uninsured rates fell across all racial and ethnic groups, with the biggest gains among Black and Latinx people. Although the Affordable Care Act is available to everyone and is meant to help lower-income communities, it doesn’t cover many services. Most of the time it only covers basic check-ups with providers but additional services, mental health for example, are an additional out-of-pocket cost. Online resources can be a way to access mental health aid with sites like Latinx Therapy offering direct access to mental health professionals and opportunities to find an affordable option.