Minority Mental Health Facts You Should Know for Minority Mental Health Month

Aarushi Pant

Some important info to know about minority groups and mental health

Main image courtesy of El Centro de Corazon.

July was first declared as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008, and every year, the month is a time to understand and reflect on the unique challenges that minority groups, such as people of color and members of the LGBTQ community, face when it comes to mental health, illnesses, and treatment. 

This month is also known as BIPOC Mental Health Month or Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Bebe Moore Campbell was an American teacher, journalist, and author who published three books. Her work centered around mental health advocacy, specifically the mental health needs of the Black community. 

2021’s theme was Strength in Communities, which focused on community support systems such as community care, self-directed care, and cultural care. 

Minority Mental Health

women of color illustration
Mental health challenges vary from community to community, and people’s lived experiences also differ based on the intersection of their identities. Image courtesy of Interim, Inc

There are a wide variety of topics and communities to discuss when it comes to minority mental health. These minority groups can be racial or ethnic minorities, gender minorities, or sexual minorities. Although minority communities have relatively similar rates of mental illness, they are less likely to receive proper mental health care and treatment.

There are a range of factors that impact the quality of care that minority populations receive for mental health problems. High quality mental health care services and treatment tend to be more inaccessible for minority groups, and mental health issues are often stigmatized, often leading to feelings of shame and isolation in many people who struggle with poor mental health. 

In general, most racial and ethnic minority groups have similar or fewer mental disorders than white people; however, these are more likely to go untreated in minority populations. Members of the LGBTQ community are often underrepresented in the healthcare system and in institutions such as the media. 

Mental Health in African American Communities

illustration of Black women
Black people often struggle to receive care or treatment for their mental health conditions, and unfortunately, Black healthcare providers and professionals are severely underrepresented in the field. Image courtesy of Good Morning America.

13.4 percent of the U.S. population identifies as Black or African American, and of those, 16 percent reported having a mental illness in the past year. Adult African Americans are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness than adult whites, and Black teenagers are more likely to attempt suicide than white teenagers. 

Rates of serious mental illness, suicidal ideation, and major depressive episodes have been increasing in Black populations over the past few years. Because mental health topics are still highly stigmatized in many Black communities, they are less likely to seek out care or treatment, which is especially true for Black men. The intersection of racial and gender identity here enforces stereotypes about toxic masculinity and attitudes about mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety tend to be judgmental or stigmatizing. 

Because Black and African American populations in the U.S. have a history of violence, racism, discrimination, and dehumanization, many Black people distrust the healthcare system. Police brutality, hate crimes, and other events rooted in racism can make Black people have to cope with more trauma than their white counterparts. A disproportionate amount of Black people are also incarcerated in this country, and of this population, Black individuals with a mental health condition such as psychosis are more likely to be incarcerated than those of other races. 

Access to healthcare is also limited, with Black individuals more likely to be uninsured and less likely to seek and receive treatment for their mental health conditions. 

Mental Health in the LGBTQ Community

person with rainbow heart shirt next to someone else illustration
Because gender identities and sexual orientations that are not cisgender or heterosexual tend to be stigmatized in society, many queer people face harassment or judgement when seeking out healthcare. Image courtesy of NAMI

Queer adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition, and transgender individuals are almost four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health condition. Queer youth are more than twice as likely to report persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness compared to their heterosexual peers. These disparities are even worse for trans youth, who are twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms or seriously consider and attempt suicide compared to cisgender lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and questioning youth. 

These gender and sexual identities have been historically exposed to high rates of violence, prejudice, and discrimination as a result of who they are. LGBTQ youth also face the challenge of coming out, which can have a negative impact on their mental health and wellbeing if they face bullying, social isolation, or rejection based on their identity. Hate crimes against LGBTQ people, especially trans women of color, lead to increased rates of trauma and fear in queer individuals. 

LGBTQ youth and young adults have a 120 percent higher risk of experiencing homelessness, and this can make seeking out mental health care difficult or even impossible. Even when seeking out treatment, LGBTQ individuals face additional barriers to care. In trans individuals, the “trans broken arm syndrome” means that the health issues and needs of trans people are often overlooked or ignored, and any problems are assumed to be a result of the person’s transgender identity. 

Intersectionality in Mental Health

It’s important to note that this has just been a brief overview of the unique challenges and experiences of minority communities when it comes to mental health, and only Black and LGBTQ populations were discussed. Other minorities, such as Asians and Pacific Islanders, or those of Hispanic or Latino origin, face similar barriers when it comes to seeking mental health care and treatment. 

When we take a quick look at these individual communities, we often don’t understand that people’s experiences cannot be put into a box, and there is overlap between different marginalized communities. For example, someone who is both Black and queer would face unique, heightened challenges with mental health as a result of the intersection of their identities. 

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