Mental health issues can be difficult for anyone one to talk about or to address whether they are dealing with them themselves or have a loved one who is battling mental illness. For some minorities, these issues can be even more problematic to address due to cultural barriers in healthcare and within their own communities.
Mental Health Issues are Tough for Some Communities
With social media and a more open attitude towards mental health issues, younger people have a larger platform to air their problems and to seek healthcare options, but for older generations, this is not always the case.
Many seniors hail from a generation where there is a shameful stigma or a feeling of weakness attached to seeking help for mental illness. Many seniors feel that mental illness is an issue to take care of on your own. And sadly, this attitude is doubly true for senior members of ethnic minority groups. This prevailing attitude leads to poorer outcomes for the person suffering from mental illness, as well as their family.
Add additional cultural barriers in healthcare and finding help can be even more difficult.
Ethnic Minorities and Mental Health
When it comes to access to healthcare for ethnic minority populations, senior Latinos face not only cultural attitudes that hinder the process, but a language barrier, as well. That means that even if a Latino senior wants to seek help for their mental health, they may have trouble finding it.
Depending on where they live in the United States access to Spanish-speaking doctors and healthcare workers may be limited. This disparity in healthcare among minorities, specifically Latinos, is a great concern as this particular community is expected to quadruple over the next 25 years to 10.4 million nation-wide.
When it comes to African American seniors and mental health, they face a slightly different issue. Instead of a language barrier, for some, there exists a socio-economic barrier. Within the African American community, there is a distrust of the healthcare system due to a history of prejudice and discrimination that makes them more likely to be misdiagnosed. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), African American men had been more likely to be misdiagnosed as schizophrenic when they were actually exhibiting symptoms of PTSD or bipolar / mood disorders.
This is concerning because African Americans are 20% more likely to deal with serious mental health issues than the general population. One of the main causes behind the mental health issues faced by African Americans is the fact that they have a larger chance of becoming a victim of a violent crime and are at a greater risk of being homeless at some point in their lifetime.
As for Asian American mental health issues, many Asians who have immigrated to the United States tend to experience a higher rate of dysthymia, which is a persistent depressive disorder. Like many Latinos, Asian Americans also face a language barrier when seeking help for mental disorders.
In the end, health barriers for minorities are most significant because of cultural attitudes, language barriers, and a lack of qualified information on mental health and resources available to treat these disorders.
Help for Minorities with Mental Health Problems
Fortunately, there has been some progress in terms of helping minorities gain better access to help for mental disorders. July is Minority Mental Health Month. And while it’s one small step to raising awareness for a much larger problem, it’s certainly a step in the right direction in raising awareness for the cause, it’s importance, and the impact it has for America’s minorities in need of qualified mental healthcare. On the NAMIr website, you’ll find information and educational resources, as well as areas to share your own story.
In addition, there several are organizations that will help minorities with their mental health issues. One such organization is Advocates for African American Elders (AAAE). Their goal is to help African Americans improve their quality of life in general and with mental health.
Mental illness can be difficult to deal with, but you don’t have to go it alone. There are resources, support groups, and help out there for those that need it. Make yourself aware of what’s out there and help to direct others in need to those who can help.
Do you know of any other organizations who are helping to drive better awareness for the growing plight of minority mental health issues? What has your experience been with these organizations? Are there any other resources you could recommend? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.