The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time when many organizations and communities come together to raise awareness about mental health. Because this is a topic that affects so many people’s lives, it’s important to focus on the needs of minority populations, who may face barriers to care that others don’t. The National Alliance on Mental Illness notes that one in four African Americans will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime, and Latino people are at risk for developing PTSD, anxiety and depression at higher rates than white people. In spite of these statistics, there are significant disparities in access to care between minority groups and white Americans—black people are only half as likely as white people to receive treatment for mental illness. Most people who have a mental illness can be treated effectively, but not everyone has access to the care they need.
In order to ensure that minority populations are able to get the help they need, we need to address the stigma surrounding mental health in those communities. Many people view mental illness as something shameful or embarrassing, but this kind of thinking can keep those who need help from seeking it out—and it can be particularly damaging in the black and latino community, it's important to not only recognize the stigma surrounding mental illness, but also understand what might be causing it and how we can help address it.
As I mentioned before, mental illness affects a portion of the population that is unlike any other. Unfortunately, that may also mean that affected people are more reluctant to seek treatment due to stigmas or stereotypes that can accompany this issue. This doesn't need to be the case, though. Mental illness does not discriminate and everyone deserves adequate mental health care. There is still much work to be done in eliminating stigma and stereotype surrounding mental health. But we must let those who suffer from mental illness know that they are not alone; we need to encourage our loved ones to speak up if they are feeling depressed or anxious; and we all have an obligation to ensure that those who need help receive it immediately if something has been wrong and they have denied it.