two people in a therapy session

Mental health conditions can affect anyone regardless of race and ethnicity, yet according Health data collected by the KFF organization in 2023 found that among adults with any mental illness, Black (39%), Hispanic (36%), and Asian (25%) adults were less likely than White (52%) adults to receive mental health services. 

The African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities are among the groups least likely to seek mental health services, whether due to socioeconomic status, inaccessible healthcare, or cultural stigmas.  

“Recognizing and addressing these disparities is crucial in ensuring no one is left behind in the pursuit of mental wellness,” says O’sha Freeman, LMFT, a clinical therapist at Loma Linda University Behavioral Medical Center. “It’s important that everyone has the ability to seek help for their mental health.”  

For July’s minority mental health awareness month, Freeman addresses the following barriers affecting minority groups. 

Understanding minority mental health disparities 

Acknowledging minority mental health is crucial in addressing the unique challenges faced by diverse communities. Freeman addresses the following barriers affecting minority communities. 

Cultural shame 
Many minority communities face cultural disapproval that can stem from traditional beliefs about mental illness, fear of judgment, and a lack of understanding about mental health issues. Cultures that value privacy tend to encourage family members to keep struggles and concerns within the family rather than communicate personal matters with a therapist, which hinders individuals from reaching out for valuable services. 

Also, individuals from communities where mental health was not openly discussed may feel shame or guilt at the suggestion of seeking mental health services. Freeman emphasizes that this issue is more common among men, contributing to the overall lack of men seeking mental health services due to societal stigmas suggesting only weak men show emotions. “It can be very shaming for a man to talk about his emotions or cry, which puts them in the minority of those seeking help.” 

Lack of access 
Whether due to geographical, financial, or systemic barriers, minority groups typically experience a shortage of mental health professionals and facilities, and those that are available may not provide culturally competent care. The National Library of Medicine reports that racial and ethnic minorities are less likely to receive needed care and are more likely to receive poor-quality care when treated.  

Lack of representation 
The lack of representation in mental health care can significantly impact the quality and effectiveness of services provided to minority communities. When mental health professionals do not reflect the diverse backgrounds of their clients, it can lead to misunderstandings, misdiagnoses, and culturally insensitive treatment approaches.  

“When we don’t see people who look and think like us, it can discourage individuals from seeking help, further hindering the advancement of minorities accessing mental health care,” Freeman says.  

Faith and beliefs 
Religious beliefs can provide strength and community support during times of adversity. However, some minority groups may view religion as the only solution to mental health challenges, and stigmas suggest that seeking help for mental health struggles indicates spiritual weakness.  

“Part of God’s mission was to bring people together and foster community, which can happen in multiple ways,” Freeman says regarding religious barriers to mental health services. “This perspective can discourage individuals from seeking professional help, which is more common in minority communities.” 

What mental health looks like for future generations 

Navigating barriers to mental health resources has historically been challenging for certain minority groups. However, Freeman says hope is on the horizon as resources become more widely available and future generations are beginning to break down cultural and generational stigmas surrounding mental health. 

“Millennials and Gen Z are seeking mental health services and feeling more comfortable discussing emotional struggles and traumas. This shift is driven by modern outlets like social media and podcasts, which can emphasize the importance of mental health and provide resources therapy,” Freeman says. 

Everyone’s mental health matters. If you or a loved one is struggling, click here to reach out to a mental health professional or call 909-558-9275 for personalized assistance and treatment planning.