Originally designated as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in 2008, the month of July is dedicated to highlighting the unique mental health challenges and needs of historically disenfranchised or oppressed racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Research indicates that Americans who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) are 20% more likely to report severe psychological distress than Caucasian Americans, yet they are:
- Less likely to have access to mental health services
- Less likely to receive needed care
- More likely to receive poor quality of care
- More likely to end services prematurely
The Gap to Care
Racial disparities within mental health counseling are well documented, with scientific racism ingrained in the foundation of medical and psychiatric care. Practitioners would subject those of African descent with mental illness to abusive treatment, experimentation, and victimization in the name of “scientific evidence” to support their erroneous racialized theories. And from the mid-1800s until the 1990s, Indigenous children were forced to assimilate into Euro-American culture at American Indian boarding schools. Indigenous culture and languages were discouraged through extreme mental, physical, and sexual abuse, often resulting in death.
Generations of discrimination, violence, and systemic oppression play a significant role in today’s health disparities. Research shows stigma, a lack of culturally centered care, and provider bias play a role in why BIPOC communities distrust the mental health system. For example, Black men have been misdiagnosed and over-diagnosed with schizophrenia compared to White men for decades. Statistics also suggest that BIPOC Americans end up incarcerated because of mental illness symptoms rather than treatment, with more than 50 percent of those detained reporting mental health concerns. Yet, the standard of care in jails and prisons is generally low.
At the same time, previous governmental policies and treatment have led many BIPOC communities to mistrust government services or care provided by white practitioners. Most mental health treatment providers in the United States are white. As of 2019, 83 percent of practicing psychologists in the U.S. are white, while only 5 percent are BIPOC.
Cultural Competence in Practice
Mental health services must be culturally competent when serving BIPOC communities. Culturally responsive care is a philosophy that values diversity, understands differences, and fosters an environment where clients are fully seen in all aspects of their identity through a holistic, anti-oppressive approach to therapy.
How can mental health practitioners practice cultural competency?
- Be aware of your worldviews, values, and assumptions about human behavior.
- Understand the worldviews of those who differ from ourselves.
- Develop culturally appropriate intervention strategies that positively affect the client.
- Recognize the system factors that directly and indirectly affect the policies and practices governing the mental health profession.
When a client’s experience is validated and respected, a higher-quality collaboration and stronger client-therapist relationship can be built, leading to more effective treatment.
Connection is Key
Getting connected to the right resources for you is a critical first step in treating mental illness. At Guild, we offer mental health services through culturally responsive care. Contact our Community Access Team at (651) 925-8490. We can help.
Understanding the racial disparities preventing BIPOC Americans from seeking life-saving mental health treatment is essential. We’ve put together a list of websites for those looking to learn more about BIPOC mental health or seeking BIPOC-specific mental health communities.
Black Mental Health Alliance
MN Mental Health Providers of Color – A list compiled by Larry Yang, a local therapist
Indigenous American Mental Health Services
We Are Native – Resources for Indigenous youth
Ayana Therapy – Online mental health therapy for marginalized and intersectional communities
NAMI Minnesota – Offers several BIPOC support groups for teens and adults
Note: Guild does not endorse the resources included and is not responsible for the content or service provided by any of these resources.
Support Guild’s Mission
Your donation to Guild changes lives—and saves them. You are extending a hand to someone experiencing severe mental illness. You are helping those in need find the appropriate resources and treatment to start the road to recovery.