Proper Mental Health Care For People of Color

Health is obviously very important. It has a major effect on our lives and the decisions that we make. However, while people normally do not hesitate to prioritize physical health, mental health is often ignored and disregarded. Mental health should be monitored and given the same attention as physical health.

What Is Mental Health and Why Is It Important?

Mental health is one’s social, emotional, and psychological well-being. It is important because of its huge impact on our lives. It affects not only our thoughts but also our actions and relationships with others. One aspect of mental health that many people don’t consider is its connection with our physical health. Chronic conditions can increase the risk for mental illness and mental illnesses such as depression can increase the risk of things like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In addition to this, mental illness is also very common. For example, one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year, and more than 50% will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime.

Access to Mental Health Care

Despite mental health care’s importance, a large number of people have little to no access to care. This is especially true for people of color. Racial and ethnic minorities have less access to mental health services than whites, are less likely to receive needed care, and are more likely to receive poor-quality care when treated. What’s even worse is that minorities are also less likely than whites to receive the best available treatments for conditions such as depression and anxiety. This disparity applies to children, too.

Thirty-one percent of white children with mental health problems receive mental health services but only thirteen percent of children from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds with mental health problems receive mental health services. This is very concerning because mental health issues in children can have negative and serious long-term effects. In 2018 more than 47 million American adults had a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder but only forty-three percent of those people received any mental health care.

People are unable to get treatment for multiple reasons. One of the primary reasons for people not having access to mental health care is expensive and insufficient insurance coverage. As many as forty-two percent of the population saw cost and poor insurance coverage as the top barriers to accessing mental health care. Additional reasons for not having access to proper mental health care are lack of awareness and social stigma. A lot of people do not know where to go for mental health care services, and others are afraid of being judged for seeking mental health care.

Why Do These Disparities Exist?

There are multiple reasons for this, including racism and other forms of discrimination, language, and communication barriers. Another big reason for this disparity is that BIPOC – Black, Indigenous, and people of color – are less likely to seek mental health care services and more likely to end services prematurely. Removing stigmas about seeking mental health care and making mental health services easier to find are great ways to combat this. As for fighting discrimination, language and communication barriers, many experts suggest emphasizing culturally competent services that can properly treat people who speak English as a second language and have diverse traditions, histories, values, and beliefs as well as increase research efforts that examine the relationship between an intersection of minority identity, status, and cultural backgrounds.

Mental Health Services and Resources in DC

The DC Department of Behavioral Health prevents, treats, and supports recovery from mental health and substance use disorders. Behavioral (Mental Health) Services | dhcf (dc.gov)

Suicide & Crisis Lifeline Call 988

 Call 1(888)7WE-HELP or 1-888-793-4357 to

  • Get emergency psychiatric care
  • Help with problem solving
  • Determine whether to seek ongoing mental health services or other types of services
  • Find out what services are available 

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