Everyone deserves to have access to mental healthcare that is sensitive to their needs and identity. Mental health disorders can and do affect people of all backgrounds and experiences. Breaking down barriers can make mental healthcare more accessible, regardless of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, language, and geographic location. There is hope for healing, and treatment can be very effective. Inclusive mental health care involves acknowledging and addressing different mental health needs with unbiased approaches that appreciate human diversity. Raising awareness and having open conversations about mental health can be empowering, as can learning more about mental health issues and related treatment. There are effective, accessible treatment options for addressing mental health concerns. Everyone deserves to live fulfilling, productive, positive lives.
Who Experiences Mental Health Concerns?
Anyone, regardless of ethnicity, race, age, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, geographical background, cultural identity, family background, or relationship status, can experience mental health concerns or mental illness. It is estimated that in 2021, one in five adults is experiencing a mental illness.
Facts About Culture, Race, Identity, and Mental Health
While a 2021 report states that depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses have been on the rise for those of all cultures and races, the report also has data about the increase of mental health concerns for people of specific races, cultures, and identities. Black Americans have had the highest change over time for anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression have more than tripled in Black and Latinx communities. Native American people have had the greatest rate increase for suicidal ideation. In the US, people who identity as Asian or Pacific Islanders are searching for mental health resources more than ever before. Rates of suicidal ideation are highest among youth who identity as LGBTQIA+ Acts of racism and violence and health issues related to COVID-19 have taken a toll on mental health. During the COVID-19 pandemic, 11–17 year-olds were more likely than any other age group to have moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety and depression. The rate was highest for youth who identity as more than one race.
These facts show the urgent need for inclusive healthcare. In addition to working for better, more equitable mental healthcare for all, the mental healthcare and medical communities are working to improve culturally responsive care and access to quality care in order to make mental healthcare more inclusive.
Hesitancy About Seeking Mental Health Support
Currently, there are large gaps between groups who are accessing mental healthcare. Many factors may contribute to these gaps, such as feelings of discrimination, inadequate insurance coverage, a shortage of licensed mental health professionals from diverse backgrounds, or a lack of mental healthcare providers who are nearby. Stigma surrounding mental health may also be a factor; the way that cultures view mental health concerns can lead to negative feelings about seeking mental health care because of worries about being judged or seeming weak. However, getting help and acknowledging concerns is actually a sign of strength.
Making Inclusive Mental Healthcare a Reality
Communicating that there is no shame or weakness in living with a mental illness can be an important tool to empower people to seek treatment. Schools, places of work, primary care physicians and providers, and community resources can be good places to start the conversation.
Open communication with a mental healthcare provider can help you discover whether they will be a good fit for you, your identity, and your cultural background. You can ask the provider if they are familiar with your beliefs, values, and attitudes towards mental health, as well as those of your community or culture. You can also talk to your provider about the values and beliefs that are important to you. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers helpful information about finding mental health care that fits your background.
Connecting with an Inclusive Licensed Mental Health Professional
If you or a loved one has mental health concerns, your primary care physician or community health center can offer good resources for finding help. There is also a free, confidential Helpline that can help you find healthcare providers: call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) any time, day or night. The Helpline is staffed by speakers of both English and Spanish. There is also a treatment service locator option online to find a mental healthcare provider. You can enter your address, city, or zip code to search for treatment services near you.
Connecting online with a licensed mental health professional can also be a great way to find help. At BetterHelp, online options for therapy are convenient, accessible, and affordable, and you can connect with culturally competent, licensed mental health professionals.