Did you know that April is the Minority Health Month? About 37 % of the US population is made up of the minority groups that the US Department of health and Human Services Office of Minority Health defines as African-American, an American Indian/ Alaska native, an Asian American, a Hispanics or Latinos, or a native Hawaiian or a Pacific Islander.
The OMH published the following: ” Mental health treatment is often underutilized, with patients reluctant to seek these services and insurers reluctant to pay for them. Estimates from a 2001-2003 survey found that about 30% of adults suffered from a mental disorder during the year, yet only one-third of them received treatment.1 Poverty level also has an impact on the mental health status of all Americans. In 2006, adults living below the poverty level were four times more likely to have serious psychological distress as compared to adults over twice the poverty level.2 In general, minorities have less access to, and less availability of mental health services.3 From 2005-2006, mental illness was the second most frequent condition, after arthritis, causing activity limitation among adults,4ages 18-44 years. ”
I am glad that poverty has been mentioned as one of the causes that contribute to poor mental health and I am also glad that they mentioned that minorities have less access to and less availability of mental health services.Indeed, The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental health as the “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease”. As we all know, in the US, it is practically impossible for a minority to reach that state for the stress itself of being a minority already affects the mental and social well-being of an individual. Acknowledging that is one step towards thinking outside the box.
Health Equity, the theme of the year’s minority month, will help address many of the mental health issues. However, it will not address the fact that health services are underutilized by minorities if we do not address the stigma around mental health. It shouldn’t be a burden to seek the help of a therapist. Yes! family, friends, etc. are important but sometimes they just don’t get it. Though we know that they love us and that they will always be there for us, sometimes, we just need to have that safe, clean and non-judgemental environment to vent and get a useful feedback.
I think, one thing that could help address the stigma is showing what really goes on in therapists offices and group sessions. No! you don’t get hypnotized and you don’t necessarily get medications that make you dizzy and emotionless. you just sit and talk if you want to or stay quiet if you want to. You make your own decisions, whether you went all the distance to that office to stare at the decorations or whether you are going to trust this stranger with your feeling and thoughts, is all up to you… At least that was my experience with therapy. You are welcome to share yours if you had any!