There are a number of reasons why special attention is required to be paid to mental health of minorities – economic constraints, cultural taboos and access to certain kinds of health care facilities are reasons due to which July is observed as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
It is OK to feel sad at a life event such as bereavement, or to feel some anxiety about a sick family member; equally one can have stressors in life that can be upsetting and unsettling. However our coping mechanisms help us find balance again and these feelings of sadness, stress and anxiety should ideally be resolved in time.
However when worry, anxiety, sadness and so on continue over longer periods of time, then these are signs of mental illness that should ring alarm bells because mental illnesses are real and they do need real treatment.
If these problems start to impact every life, work or school, one’s relationships and so on, then certainly help is required.
Certain minority communities such as Asian Americans or African Americans are particularly at risk from mental illnesses and so there is a special need for raising awareness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness there exist certain disparities in mental health care because people either don’t seek help or do not have access to the care that they need.
Ultimately the entire society suffers as a result of inadequate mental health care.
The special circumstances that prevent minorities from seeking or obtaining requisite health, according to a US Surgeon General Report, are –
- Minority communities are less likely to be diagnosed with and get treatment for their mental problems.
- Fewer mental health facilities may be available or accessible to minorities.
- It is not just a matter of access, but minorities are also seen to receive poorer quality of mental health care and they are also underrepresented in mental health research.
This underrepresentation of minorities in receiving mental health care is often due to economic constraints since the poorer individuals lack the resources to seek and obtain the help that they need.
Added to this is the stigma factor that certain communities such as the Asian American communities face when it comes to mental illnesses; and the idea that a mental illness brings shame upon the family.
Owing to this stigma, many Asian Americans will prefer not to get help, which causes the problem to exacerbate. And in fact due a cultural clash between traditional Asian values and more modern Western ones, individuals from these communities may face even more stress than others may.