More than 20% of U.S. adults live with mental illness, yet many don’t get the care they need. Despite growing openness and understanding about mental health in the last decade, treatment is often delayed or avoided because of shame or other negative feelings. And like other aspects of healthcare, people in marginalized groups often have problems accessing quality mental health treatment.
The numbers are stark: In 2021, it is estimated that only 39 percent of Black adults, 25 percent of Asian adults, and 36 percent of Hispanic/Latine adults with any mental illness were treated, compared to 52 percent of White adults. The suicide rate among Black youth is rising faster than other racial or ethnic groups. American Indian and Alaska Native veterans report experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at nearly double the rate of White veterans – 20.5 percent compared to 11.6 percent.
In 2008, July was set aside as National Minority Mental Health Month in order to bring awareness to the disparities in care and recognize the unique struggles that culturally diverse individuals face regarding mental health. During the annual observance, health organizations also highlight ways to destigmatize mental illness and break down systemic barriers to treatment.
This month, we are revisiting our conversation with three experts in the healthcare industry, discussing how organizations and individual service providers can improve health outcomes in underserved communities. The conversation was about the disparities throughout healthcare for culturally diverse individuals, but the comments apply to mental health. Only by confronting the systemic inequities throughout our health systems can disparities be eliminated.