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July is BIPOC Mental Health Month

Here is Why it is Important…



Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) experience mental illness at similar rates as white people, but they’re less likely to get treatment due to cultural barriers, stigma, and lack of access to care. These disparities can have a serious impact on BIPOC mental health. People who don’t receive treatment for mental illness are more likely to experience persistent symptoms that interfere with their daily lives. According to data collected by Lyra Health...


  • 43% of Black people and 47% of Hispanic people try to deal with mental health challenges on their own rather than seeing a therapist, compared to 35% percent of white people.

  • Only 25% of Asian American and Pacific Islanders receive mental health treatment.

  • Indigenous people who attend therapy is estimated to be even lower.



Some of the barriers to BIPOC mental health


Lack of insurance


Due to racial disparities in access to health coverage, certain minoritized communities in the United States are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured than white Americans. It can be difficult for many people to afford mental health care, even if it’s covered by insurance.


Only 7.2% of white Americans are uninsured while Hispanic and American Indian and Alaskan Native (AIAN) people are uninsured at 19% and 21.2% respectively.


Those identifying as Black and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) are uninsured at 10.9% and 10.8% respectively.


Physical barriers


Proximity can stand in the way of BIPOC mental health care, too. It’s challenging for people living with a lower socioeconomic status to find affordable mental health providers near them.


Mental health providers are more likely to be located closer to populations with a higher socioeconomic status and BIPOC may struggle to find a provider they can conveniently and consistently access.


Also people in the BIPOC community are 80% less likely to have the option to take time off work and have less access to their own vehicle.


Stigma


Mental illness can carry stigma in certain BIPOC communities.


  • 63% of Black Americans reported believing that a mental health condition is a sign of personal weakness. It’s not to be discussed openly because it’s looked at as “airing dirty laundry.” Black Americans are also more likely to end mental health treatment prematurely or not seek treatment at all due to the cultural stigma around help-seeking.

  • In many Asian cultures, mental health disorders are surrounded by shame and are thought to reflect negatively on the family and decrease suitability for marriage. Asian Americans are more likely to report physical symptoms like fatigue or headaches instead of emotions like worry or sadness.

  • Talking about mental illness in Latinx culture is often viewed as taboo, particularly because of a strong cultural emphasis on keeping personal matters private. Traditional expectations about how men and women should behave (also known as gender role expectations) can also perpetuate stigma. For example, men are often expected to be strong while women are expected to be more submissive. These expectations can make it tough for people experiencing mental distress to share with others and seek support.


Cultural mistrust


People in minoritized communities, particularly in the Black community, have endured a history of negative experiences with mental health care. They may have been misdiagnosed, mistreated, or misunderstood by a provider, or heard about these experiences from people in their community. As a result, they may hesitate to fully trust a mental health care provider, fearing that they will experience harm or discrimination. This concern is heightened when people in these communities have a white provider.

Lack of culturally responsive providers


People of color may prefer to see therapists of their ethnicity, but 84% of Psychologists in the U.S. identify as white. This lack of racial representation among mental health providers can create barriers to BIPOC mental health care and perpetuate mistrust and lower help-seeking rates.



#1 Build BIPOC representation across all organizational levels

Working to build BIPOC representation in mental health services is essential. Increasing BIPOC representation across all levels can increase BIPOC patient engagement and confidence in their providers.


#2 Establish a sense of a mental health community

Community and social support impact mental health, and the quality of community at work contributes to an inclusive and emotionally healthy environment. Helping BIPOC employees find belonging is a crucial part of championing BIPOC mental health and wellness. Mentorship programs, local resources, or even grassroots-supported BIPOC community spaces build connections and increase psychological safety.


#3 Embrace cultural differences & Be helpful, not harmful when responding to BIPOC mental health concerns

Develop a mental health community that values diversity and inclusion. Help BIPOC communities prioritize mental health and normalize mental health care. Discretion and safety are paramount so that consumers trust providers. It’s important to reinforce the availability of mental health resources after someone communicates their needs or distress.

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