Waiting Room

Are People of Color Less Likely to Get Mental Health Care?

Aug 7, 2020

Mental illness can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or any other demographic categorization. While all racial and ethnic groups experience mental illness,  people of color are less likely to receive the help they need to get better. A higher percentage of white people receive mental health treatment than most groups of people of color.

People of Color *are* Less Likely to Receive Mental Health Treatment 

While all communities experience mental illness, some communities are affected at higher rates, including multiracial individuals who experience mental illness at a prevalence of 26.8%, versus 20.4% for white individuals. Not only does the prevalence of mental illness differ for different races, but the likelihood of receiving treatment also does as well. People of color are less likely to access treatment for their mental illnesses than white people.

On average, 43% of all adults with a mental illness receive mental healthcare. White people with a mental illness are the most likely group to get care, with nearly half receiving the care that they need.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the lowest percentage of reported mental illness, at 15%. They also are least likely to get mental healthcare, with only a quarter receiving the services they need.

16% of Black Americans report having a mental illness. This is close to the average of all adults who report a mental illness, 19%. While 43% of all adults with a mental illness receive services, only 31% of Black people with a mental illness receive services. 

The Native/Indigenous community has a higher rate of reported mental illness at 22%. There is not enough research on the rate of people who receive the care that they need, but it’s estimated to be low. 

While 17% of people in the Hispanic and Latinx community report having a mental illness, only 33% of those who need it receive services.

People who identify as mixed-race or multiracial have the largest percentage of mental illness compared to other racial groups, with 27% reporting having a mental illness. 32% of people who are mixed race and have a mental illness get the treatment they need. Though still low, this percentage is highest among people of color.

Why do Fewer People of Color Access Mental Health Care?

We know that people of color access treatment at lower rates than their white counterparts. There are many reasons for this, including economic disparities, stigma, lack of diversity in the mental health profession, language barriers, and distrust in the healthcare system.

Mental illness affects each individual and community differently. But, one thing is clear: it’s harder for people of color to access treatment. 

One reason for this may be lack of insurance. For example, 7.5% of white people are uninsured, compared to 11.5% of Black people, 18% of Hispanic and Latinx people, and 14.9% of Native or Indigenous people. Mental health care can be expensive, and being uninsured can mean people can’t access treatment.

Another reason is the lack of diversity among mental health providers and lack of culturally competent providers. The vast majority of mental health care workers are white. This can have negative impacts on people of color who seek care. Providers who aren’t educated in how to treat people from backgrounds different than their own can misdiagnose, under-diagnose, or dismiss the problems of patients of color.

Stigma in communities of color can pose another barrier. Mental illness is viewed differently in different communities. 

They also may struggle with language barriers, which can prevent people from finding adequate care. Racism in the healthcare system can also cause people of color to distrust the system and refrain from seeking services.

If You’re a Person of Color with a Mental Illness, We Recommend This

First, acknowledge where you’re at. Recognize and reflect on what’s happening in your life. Then, if you feel safe enough, reach out. Connect with a family member, friend, or doctor who you believe can relate to you. This may mean you seek out someone to talk to who has a shared experience as you or someone that you feel like can understand. You might connect with a doctor or therapist. . It’s okay to try multiple therapists to find one you are comfortable with!

Find a supportive community or network. Having a support system of friends and family members who you can discuss your illness with can make all the difference. 

Know you have a voice. It’s not uncommon for doctors to dismiss the pain of people of color. Implicit provider bias against racial or ethnic groups can make it harder to get the right treatment. You know what’s right for you. Trust your gut! Unfortunately, you may have to see multiple doctors to find one who can truly work with you to address your mental illness. You can call our Community Access team at 651-925-8490 to discuss your options or use this online tool to find a therapist or doctor who is right for you

At Guild, we strive to put equity at the center of our services. And, we understand mental illness and what it takes to heal. Lastly, we understand that appointments, medications, and therapy can be prohibitively expensive. If that is the case, here are some resources that may help:

If you are still struggling to find something that works for you, reach out to us. By emailing info@guildservices.org or messaging us on social media, we can work together to help you discover what options are available to you. 



Racial and Ethnic Differences in Mental Illness Stigma and Discrimination Among Californians Experiencing Mental Health Challenges, Rand Health Quarterly.

Black/African American, National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

Black and African American Communities and Mental Health, Mental Health America. 

Mental Health Facts for African Americans, American Psychiatry Association. 

Mental Health Facts for Diverse Populations, American Psychiatry Association.

Latinx/Hispanic Communities and Mental Health, Mental Health America.

Mental Health Facts for Hispanic/Latinos, American Psychological Association. 

Asian American/Pacific Islander Communities and Mental Health, Mental Health America.

Mental Health Facts for American Indian and Alaska Natives, American Psychiatry Association.

Native and Indigenous Communities and Mental Health, Mental Health America.

How Diverse is the Psychology Workforce? American Psychological Association.

BIPOC Mental Health, Mental Health America.

Mental Health Care Matters, National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Latino Health Disparities, League of United Latin American Citizens.

It’s Time to Address the Role of Implicit Bias Within Health Care Delivery, Health Affairs.