Written by John Contreras, Racial Justice Community Engagement Manager, YWCA SEW
As Minority Mental Health Month continues, the chance to reflect on how important maintaining my mental health is clear. As a person of color, I was often met with ridicule for discussing my mental health, or suggesting support for others via a therapist. Unfortunately, the stigma of therapy and pursuing assistance with mental health continues to affect communities of color. People of color are disproportionately affected by a lack of mental health services, in addition to health coverage overall.
To give some perspective, here is some information pertaining to health disparities by race and ethnicity. According to Center for American Progress:
- “In 2018, 8.7 percent of African American adults received mental health services compared with 18.6 percent of non-Hispanic white adults
- In 2017, the number of suicide attempts by adolescent Hispanic females was 40 percent higher than that of adolescent non-Hispanic white females
- In 2017, 14.9 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives were uninsured compared with 5.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites
- In 2018, 6.9 percent of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander adults reported a major depressive episode in the past year”
And these are only some parts of the information provided by the Center for American Progress. The comparison of how many adults receive mental health services is staggering. Although the data above reflects only African American adult percentage, no other race or ethnicity come even close to the 18.6 percent of white adults that receive mental health services.
Needless to say, these numbers suggest that there are racial barriers between access to mental health services, in addition to stigma. Through my journey with mental health, one action taken was to actively advocate for services with others. Assisting others finding their professional support in mental health is important to addressing mental health issues. Our communities are plagued disproportionately by discrimination and long histories with racism, and we need support. If you or someone you know needs support, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Nation Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. Additionally, local resources that can make a difference for someone in need. The tools we need to understand mental health can sometimes be difficult to find, but organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness are accessible at the YWCA Southeast Wisconsin Milwaukee location. Their resources, BIPOC LGBTQ info, healthcare disparities for BIPOC, and the impact of Covid on BIPOC are linked. Please refer to any of the above hyperlinks for resources pertaining to mental health.
Maintaining your mental health as a person of color is sometimes undervalued, and as the stigma around it disappears, we can all find the help we need.