Minority Mental Health Month: How Individuals Experience Different Challenges
Although mental health disorders do not discriminate based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, inclusive disabilities, or other important demographic factors, certain situations and backgrounds can make it harder for someone to receive support and treatment. People in certain minority groups may be more likely to face obstacles that are unique to them, like discrimination within transgender mental health care. Latinix mental health can look different from Black mental health, and so on. This Minority Mental Health Month, you can be an active agent in acknowledging intersectionality and helping to create that change for the people around you.
Exploring Minority Mental Health Month
It’s important to bring awareness to the mental health challenges of different minority groups, which is exactly what holidays, like Transgender Day of Visibility, and celebratory months, like Minority Mental Health Month aim to do. Celebrated every July, its purpose is to create more understanding and empathy and ultimately bring more resources to the fight against mental illness. One in five Americans are affected by mental illness, and minorities are no exception. Having a month dedicated specifically to them allows disparities to be discussed, resources explored, and knowledge of mental illness expanded.
Recognizing Minority Mental Health Month
Don’t let Minority Mental Health Month come and go without recognizing it! Whether you are part of a minority group or not, you too can create change. Here are some ideas to spread awareness:
- Educate yourself through films and books, then tell others about what you’ve learned.
- Encourage your loved ones to seek mental health help when they need it.
- Use social media and word-of-mouth to spread important information.
- Get involved in local campaigns that celebrate or help individuals in minority groups.
- Attend events centered around the needs or concerns of minority groups.
- Organize a group to have an open dialogue and spread awareness.
- Be there for your loved ones.
- Speak up when you hear something that is incorrect, hurtful, or biased.
No matter how you choose to recognize Minority Mental Health Month, don’t forget that your voice matters and can make a difference. There are times when it’s better to listen and times when it’s the right thing to speak up. Knowing the difference between the two can help you become a positive force in the fight to make mental health care more accessible for minorities and eliminate harmful stigmas. Your impact is bigger than you may realize and even the little things count.
Supporting the Mental Health of People In Minority Groups
The reality is that minorities can face inequalities in everyday life as well as in the healthcare system. Supporting the mental health of these communities is something that everyone can play a part in. Here’s how:
Be encouraging: Sometimes, people just need someone to lean on, cry to, or listen to them. There are situations in which someone may just not know where to turn next. In these moments, you can encourage them and remind them that things will get better. You may recommend that they seek the support of a therapist and check in on them every now and again. Everyone needs a friend, especially when times are tough.
Ask questions: It’s okay to be curious and to want answers. Rather than making assumptions, try respectfully asking questions when they’re appropriate. Remember that everyone won’t always want to talk about the same topic you’d like to. This doesn’t mean they never will, just that the time may not be right. Whatever their answer is to your questions, try not to judge or criticize what they have to say. When you ask questions, it’s more important to listen than to respond.
Take the time to learn: There are tons of resources available whenever you’re ready to learn. From books to documentaries to online studies, the amount of information out there is endless. Educating yourself about different cultures and the unique obstacles they may face can help you gain more understanding and empathy for the minorities in your life.
Show respect and empathy: Part of showing respect is realizing that you don’t have all the answers and there may be some things you don’t quite understand. That’s okay. The most important thing you can do is speak with kindness, empathy, and respect and listen well. Often, by having these important conversations, you can learn a lot and grow in your understanding of difficult concepts or topics.
Avoid contributing to stigmas: Making assumptions, giving in to stereotypes, or labeling people can create more harm. Instead, seek to gain an understanding of the things you’re unfamiliar with and try to pick up as much knowledge as you can. If you make a mistake, apologize, learn from it, and be careful not to repeat it in the future. No one is perfect, and you shouldn’t put that pressure on yourself to be perfect either.
Be genuine: Most of the time, people can tell if you’re being authentic with them or not. Approach conversations as your true self and you’re likely to have an easier time getting those you care about to open up. You may just learn something in the process, too. You may feel nervous at first, but those feelings will usually dissipate once you recognize that you’re simply here to connect with those around you. You may not think or act the same, but you can seek to understand one another.
Mental health can be a difficult topic to talk about, especially with so many factors at play. Since everyone thinks about and approaches mental health differently, every conversation you have will need to be altered depending on whom you’re talking to. It’s good to remain sensitive, especially with certain subjects, but don’t forget that there’s power in learning something new. The more you learn, the more you can help educate others, spread awareness, and ultimately create positive change in the world.
Common Mental Health Challenges
Minorities can experience mental health challenges just like anyone else. However, they may go through unique challenges that others do not as a result of belonging to a minority group. For example, they may experience:
Underdiagnosis or misdiagnosis: A lack of cultural understanding from mental health professionals can create scenarios in which someone is either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Their mental health concerns may be downplayed or not taken seriously. Language barriers are another cause, as well as cultural differences in describing symptoms. Further, there may be stigmas among certain minority groups surrounding mental illness, which can create a delay in diagnosis and ultimately treatment.
Persistent depression: Although the rates of depression are lower for blacks and Hispanics than in whites, it’s more likely to last longer in minority populations. In addition, the type of depression being experienced is more likely to be described as severe or debilitating.
Fatigue: Minorities may frequently encounter stressors like racism and other types of discrimination. Over time, the exhaustion from dealing with prejudice, micro expressions, and other challenges can create a kind of fatigue that adds to one’s already declining mental health.
Lack of awareness: In general, those belonging to a minority group may be less educated about mental health. This is especially true when a cultural stigma surrounding mental health exists in their community. The result is that many individuals do not reach out for support when they need it most.
Anxiety: Many things can create anxiety disorders, one of them being lack of income. Statistically, minorities are more likely to come from lower-income backgrounds. Feeling constant pressure and worry about money can cause people to develop anxiety and other types of disorders.
PTSD: Those from minority groups may be more likely to experience traumatic events such as domestic abuse, rape, gun violence, or assault. These events, especially when they aren’t dealt with, can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.
Lack of care: Even if someone receives a diagnosis or wants to reach out for mental health care, they may not have the means to. Lack of income, transportation issues, and social stigmas can create many barriers to receiving support.
If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse in any form, reach out right away to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) for immediate support, advice, and assistance.
Clearly, individuals in minority groups can experience challenges that are unique to their community. In some situations, these challenges can exacerbate mental health problems that already exist. Recognizing these disparities and working to bridge the gap so that fewer inequalities exist is vital for more effective care and treatment.
Effective Treatment Options
Multicultural counseling describes a type of practice that takes into account how someone’s mental health may be influenced by their cultural identity. Identity could include aspects like race, religion, income, disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, health conditions, immigration status, living environment, and more.
For decades, most counseling positions were filled by white men. People of color, as well as women, were less likely to become counselors. The problem that still exists today is that the distribution of available counselors does not reflect the demographics of the country. Due to this disparity, minorities may have a harder time finding a therapist who can understand their life experiences and relate more easily to them.
Multicultural counseling is vital because it equips professionals of all backgrounds to be sensitive to the unique needs and challenges of minorities. Whether there are issues stemming from racism, discrimination, or other experiences, counselors who engage in multicultural counseling can be more equipped to offer the right support. It increases empathy, understanding, and, in many cases, the client’s overall experience in therapy. No matter what type of therapy you’re using or pursuing, having this mindset during sessions can make a positive difference for both the therapist and the client.
The Benefits of Online Therapy
Every individual will face unique challenges throughout their lifetime, and no one should have to go through these obstacles alone. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all treatment option, there are different strategies that will work for different people. One of these options is online therapy, which you can pursue through BetterHelp. BetterHelp matches you with a qualified, caring mental health professional with the click of a button. It can be the ideal option for anyone with a busy schedule or anyone who just wants to try something new.
Wondering how effective online therapy can be? In this study, researchers found that internet-based CBT had advantages like “lower cost, no travel time, no waitlists, and trackable progress.” This is exciting news for anyone but might be even more appealing to minority groups since they can face more obstacles to receiving care.
Once you sign up with BetterHelp, you’ll be able to connect with your therapist through a phone call, video chat, or online chat feature. Everything is virtual, so you can meet with them anytime, anywhere. It may be intimidating to give therapy a try, but it’s a service that has changed the lives of millions of people. It could change yours, too. Reach out today to get started.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is National Minority Mental Health Month?
Minority Mental Health Month is celebrated every July and seeks to create awareness about the unique challenges that minority communities might face. Every year, there is a public campaign that shines a light on the issues minorities can face in their everyday lives and when seeking mental health treatment.
Who created Minority Mental Health Month?
Minority Mental Health Month was created by Bebe Moore Campbell in 2008. Campbell was an American author, teacher, journalist, and mental health advocate. Her work centered around underrepresented communities and other minority groups. Additionally, she sought to bring attention to the unique struggles of minority communities and spark change where she could. Her legacy is a month that attempts to accomplish these goals and more to create a lasting impact on individuals and families around the globe.
How does being a minority affect your mental health?
Being a minority has the potential to affect one’s mental health in a variety of ways. Some people experience these challenges more than others and to varying degrees. Specifically, minorities may have a harder time receiving care for their mental health because of a lack of resources like money or transportation. Once they do find care, they may have to deal with discrimination or might be met with unhelpful advice as their concerns are downplayed. Some will find that the stigma surrounding mental health affects their ability not only to cope but to receive support. These challenges are concerning, but it is nevertheless important for minorities to continue to seek help for their mental health until they find a professional and a treatment plan that works right for them.
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