Mental Health Disparities

Mental health is something that we all struggle with, and it is something that, as a society, we need to discuss. Particularly, we need to discuss mental health disparities among minorities. Racial/ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to many reasons, including, discrimination, harmful stigmas, and overall lack of awareness about mental health. Additionally, minority individuals may experience symptoms that go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for cultural, linguistic or historical reasons. Because of these reasons, it is very important that mental healthcare providers are educated on these topics as to avoid continuing this cycle. The stigma surrounding topics such as mental health can make people reluctant to discuss their mental health needs with friends or family, or even their health care providers, so it is important that we have these conversations and become aware of these types of problems to try and break down the barriers. Often, people avoid or delay seeking treatment due to concerns about being treated differently or fears of losing their livelihood.

All of these concerns are perpetuated because of stigma, prejudice, and discrimination against people with mental illness. There is a lack of attention surrounding the mental and behavioral health needs of racial, sexual, and ethnic minorities and because of this minorities are far less likely to receive treatment for their mental health issues. In comparison to the white population, most racial and ethnic minority groups have similar mental health disorders, however the consequences of these mental health issues may be longer lasting. The LGBTQ+ community struggles with stigma and lack of awareness as well. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are about “twice as likely to report suicidal thoughts than their heterosexual peers, and more than three times likely to have attempted suicide.” In the long run, these disparities among mental health and the care provided can have devastating effects. It is important that we educate ourselves on these disparities and work towards a space where everyone is able to receive adequate mental health care, without discrimination or harmful stigmas.

Having these conversations about mental health can be difficult and often uncomfortable, but we must have these conversations and bring awareness to these disparities as a society. Everyone, regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, deserves the right to adequate mental health services and spaces to speak about the issues they face. These issues are not ones that can be fixed overnight, but there are ways that we can start changing them. Talking openly about mental health can help break down the stigma around it and encourage other individuals to do the same. Even if you are only helping one person, it is still worth it. Educating ourselves and others on these issues is also extremely important as a lot of the time, these issues stem from lack of awareness and education. And lastly, show compassion for those with mental illness, especially minority individuals who may be suffering in silence. Showing that you care and being kind may seem like a small thing, but it can make a huge difference.  

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