Exploring Minority Mental Health

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry
Updated February 23, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Content Warning: The following article contains topics related to suicide, which may be triggering to the reader. Reach out to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for 24/7 assistance by visiting their website or texting/calling 988. Also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Everyone can have unique experiences when it comes to mental health. Generally speaking, no two people will have the same journey, and mental health conditions do not discriminate based on one’s identity. 

That said, individuals belonging to minority groups—such as racial and ethnic minorities or LGBTQIA+ individuals—may face unique challenges in terms of mental health and proximity to quality care. 

In this article, we’ll explore some of the unique factors that can contribute to mental health conditions, related health care disparities in minority populations and a few additional ways to support mental health. 

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Mental health in minority populations

Mental health challenges can be commonly encountered in the United States and all around the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that around 20% of Americans experience symptoms of a mental health condition in a given year. Minority groups can also face additional challenges that can impact mental health and mental health treatment, extending beyond this statistic. 

Here are a few facts and statistics to keep in mind:

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.

Factors that can contribute to mental health conditions and health care disparities

Minorities can experience unique challenges that may affect mental health and treatment. Below are just a few examples of inequalities and challenges that may make someone in a minority group more prone to mental health-related experiences and/or less likely to receive treatment for mental health conditions:

Lack of resources to receive care

Some minorities might not have what they need to get mental health care. For example: some may not have health insurance or may not be able to afford treatment. Some may also have limited free time due to juggling multiple jobs and taking care of children without consistent proximity to childcare. For some, transportation may also be an issue.  

Poor quality of care

When minorities receive treatment, it might be poorer quality than others would find. They may face bias and discrimination in treatment settings that can impact the quality of care, and they may be misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed. For some, there may also be language barriers with a provider. Race, socioeconomic status, language, age, gender, sexual orientation and more can all affect the quality of care one gets. 

Stigma

Stigma surrounding mental illness can be higher among certain minority groups. If people feel they’re not “allowed” to have a mental illness, or if they see mental illness as a weakness, for example, they might be less likely to reach out for support. 

Discrimination

Racism, harassment and bias might be encountered when a minority seeks mental health treatment. Providers may not have experience with a diverse set of clients, and some may even downplay symptoms or hold beliefs that harm the individual even further. 

Lack of representation

Having someone you can rely on and trust can be vital when receiving care for mental health. However, minorities might struggle to find a provider that looks, speaks or identifies as they do. 

Although individuals from minority groups can experience mental health needs like anyone else would, they may not have the same proximity to treatment, support and quality care as other groups do. When these individuals cannot get help for their mental health challenges, their condition may get worse over time. 

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How to support minority mental health

Addressing the inequalities in the health care system can be a complex endeavor involving structural, societal and individual changes that generally go beyond the scope of this article. 

Many believe that key upcoming changes to consider can include increasing representation among providers, providing additional resources to reduce barriers to care, expanding health care coverage, and more. 

Here, we’ll focus on a few suggestions for how an individual who identifies as part of a minority group can support their own mental health. 

Ways to support your own mental well-being

If you’re looking for ways you can support your mental health on your own, here are a few examples of things you can try:

  • Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and emotions can help you sort through your feelings and gain perspective. You can write for as little or as long as you’d like about any topic or concern. Journaling can help with depression, anxiety disorder symptoms, stress, and many other mental health conditions. 
  • Support groups: Support groups can be made up of people who have a similar concern or have had a common experience.  They can decide what worked best for them during difficult times, validate your experiences and encourage you to keep going. Your city directory can be a helpful place to start if you’re looking for a support group near you. 
  • Exercise: Exercise can be a great way for many to release some stress and tension in your body and mind. There is generally not a one-size-fits-all exercise routine, so you can experiment to find something that works best for you. You can do something lighter like yoga or more intense like running sprints. Getting your body moving each day can promote better mental health and keep you in shape physically as well. 

Taking care of yourself is a task that generally extends to both your mental and physical health. You may consider trying out some different techniques to determine what works best for your needs. 

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Support through online therapy

Another option to consider for supporting your mental health is connecting with a professional through online therapy. Given the many barriers that can possibly exist to receiving in-person care discussed above (such as transportation, availability and proximity to a quality provider), online therapy may feel more convenient for some people. 

With online therapy, you can match and speak with a therapist from wherever you have an internet connection, which can eliminate the need to commute to an office and make it easier to slot into busy schedules. You may also feel more empowered to speak candidly about your experience due to the proximal distance between you and the provider.

Is online therapy effective? 

Every individual might face mental health concerns that are unique to them, and individuals from minority groups can experience a wide range of mental health conditions that may not receive equitable care compared to other groups of people.

Research has shown that online therapy can be just as effective as in-person therapy for a range of conditions—generally addressing symptoms associated with depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder and more with comparable benefits to in-person treatment.

Takeaway

Individuals from minority groups can face mental health challenges that are unique to them, while also experiencing additional barriers to quality care. Addressing the disparities in mental health care can be a complex endeavor—however, it can be incredibly impactful for millions in our national and international communities. There are many options available to all individuals who are looking for support, including online therapy and other supportive strategies. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.

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