Minority Health and Disparity
July is National Minority Health Awareness Month. The Office of Minority Health (OMH), a sub-department of the US Health and Human Services Department (HHS), is devoted to improving the status quo of racial and ethnic minority populations by developing health policies and programs that reduce health disparities and support mental and emotional wellbeing. Of course, this is a peculiar year that only adds to the complexity of the task at hand: the heightened mental health efforts run hand in hand with the astringent social distancing guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the fight against COVID-19.
As always in our modern communities, the civil society teams up with federal and local authorities to bring added intelligence and leadership to any one effort: NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the country’s largest grassroots mental health organization. Established back in 1979 around a kitchen table, the association defends core values of hope, inclusion, empowerment, compassion, and fairness, boasting 600 local affiliates and 48 state organizations. In 2008, the US House of Representatives announced that moving forward July would be the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in honor of NAMI Urban Los Angeles co-founder, leading African American author and a mental illness patient herself too.
Both the OMH and NAMI have been at it for years. They have pursued common and complementary goals and organized campaigns to, among others, destigmatize mental illness and broaden the cultural competency of behavioral health professionals, stressing the buildup of knowledge and skills to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate services.
Blood Curdling Stats
The minorities addressed include American Indians and Alaska Natives, African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics and Latinos, and Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians. It has been profusely reported again and again that these racial and ethnic minority groups are…
- less likely to have access to mental health services
- less likely to use community mental health services
- less likely to have health insurance
- more likely to use emergency departments
- more likely to receive lower quality care
- more likely to a heightened stress response to a pandemic…
…and in the health care system and treatment settings suffer…
- higher levels of stigma
- cultural insensitivity
- racism, bias, and some kind of phobia or discrimination
- language barriers
In 2017 in the US, 7.5% (2.5 million) of young adults age 18 to 25 suffered a serious mental health condition. This included 7.6% of non-Hispanic Asians, 5.7% of Hispanics and 4.6% of non-Hispanic blacks.
In 2017 in the US, 10.5% (3.5 million) of young adults age 18 to 25 seriously contemplated suicide. This included 8.3% of non-Hispanic blacks and 9.2% of Hispanics.
Remember: there is hope. Your best approach is early treatment, which as always starts with talking to your general practitioner and getting a referral to a mental health specialist.