July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It’s an opportunity to bring attention to the unique mental health challenges that racial and ethnic minority communities face.
It’s also an opportunity to fight the stigma and misinformation surrounding mental health so those who are vulnerable can find the support they need to manage their condition and thrive.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, racial and minority groups tend to experience mental health disorders at about the same rate as whites. But because they tend to seek help at lower rates than whites, their conditions tend to be more debilitating and last longer.
Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was inspired by Bebe Moore Campbell, an author, mental health advocate, and co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles. She was inspired by her family’s struggles in obtaining mental health care:
“Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years,” she says. “We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans. It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”
Recognizing and overcoming barriers
In many minority communities, stigma remains a major obstacle. Family members may be judgmental or view mental health symptoms as a personal weakness. And those who need help may view therapy as the norm for middle-class white people—but not for those like themselves.
It can be helpful to request a therapist from your background or someone more familiar with your culture. Like many organizations, the American Psychiatric Association is striving to achieve greater diversity in its workforce to better reflect our country’s different population groups and reduce disparities in care.
Reach out to your Assistance Program for confidential mental health support and resources.
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