Racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to have access to mental health services in the United States, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Racial minorities are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness, less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to receive lower-quality care and have less overall access to mental health services.
Glenn Scott, LCSW, director of Loma Linda University Behavioral Health’s Youth Partial Hospital Program, says awareness for racial minority mental health is more important now than ever. “Recent events that have taken place across the country have reopened old and new wounds for many racial minorities,” Scott says. “Being able to access help and talk about the effects of these events on mental health is imperative.”
Scott identifies some of the invisible barriers many minorities face when seeking care:
Mental illnesses impact people of all ages, cultures and socioeconomic status. Despite being widespread, mental health has often been shrouded with stigma making it more difficult for people to seek help when suffering.
“The stigma of mental health issues or addiction problems can be enough to create a barrier between the patient and the care they need,” he says. “Fear of being unaccepted or different can lead people to refuse to seek help.” Scott says cultural stigma and shame can cause people to hide what they’re going through from their communities, contributing to a lack of recognition of mental health issues.
When people speak candidly about their struggles, they’re able to change the conversation on mental health. This not only helps reduce stigma but promotes a better understanding of mental health in general.
“People may not understand or accept that they’re experiencing a treatable health condition,” Scott says. “Feeling ‘consistently sad and tired’ or ‘easily stressed out and worried’ may be signs of very treatable mental health conditions like depression or anxiety.”
A large obstacle for people seeking mental health care is access to mental health providers, especially in underserved communities. Many people looking for treatment struggle to find care that is reasonably close and accepting new patients, Scott says. “Access and wait times are huge obstacles, but mental health care continues to expand to meet the need,” he says. “There is still a lot of work to do, but if we identify the barriers to treatment, we can work as a community to find ways around them.”
Loma Linda University Health providers are committed to ensuring all patients have access to the care they need during this or any stressful time. Patients can schedule virtual or telephone visits by visiting MyChart or calling their provider.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, make sure they know about the Mental Health Programs at Loma Linda University Behavioral Health. Visit LLUBMC.org to learn more.