ABH Maryland

Racial Inequalities In Mental Healthcare


Racial Inequalities In Mental Healthcare

  • History

People with mental illnesses have always been victim to discrimination. However, some races and ethnicities have a deeper rooted stigma surrounding mental healthcare.

In 2020, more than 2.6 million Americans completed a mental health screening through the Mental Health America organization. Though only half the participants reported their race during the screening, about half that did identified as white.

Statistics show that mental illness does not discriminate by age, gender, or race, so why are Black, Indigenous, and people of color seeking mental health services at sharply lower rates than their white neighbors?

The History of Scientific Racism

The United States has an ugly history with racism, and the mental health industry is no exception. Also known as biological racism, scientific racism is the pseudoscientific belief that there is evidence to justify racism.

As far back as the Atlantic Slave Trade, psychological terminology was used to justify the enslavement of Black men. They were often described as “uniquely fitted for bondage” with a “primitive psychological organization” to justify the horrific treatment of Africans.

Dr. Benjamin Rush, the “father of American psychiatry,” wrote at length about his theory that Black people suffered from a form of leprosy. His proposed cure was to change the skin from “black to a natural white flesh color.”

American doctor Samuel Cartwright coined the term drapetomania in 1851, and it was still listed in the Practical Medical Dictionary in 1914. The term was used for a now-debunked mental illness that allegedly caused Black enslaved men and women to flee captivity.

The cause of the racially motivated “diagnosis” was simple — slave owners who “made themselves too familiar with the slaves, treating them as equals.” The only prescribed treatment for this fake illness was physical abuse, from whipping to removal of the big toe to discourage running at all.

How Does Race and Ethnicity Affect Mental Health?

Racial disparities throughout the mental health system are documented across the years. Compared to white people, BIPOC people are less likely to have access to mental health services or seek mental health services at all. And unfortunately, when they do, they can be faced with hurdles, microaggressions, and incorrect diagnoses.

Statistically, Black men are diagnosed four times more often with schizophrenia than white men of the same age ranges. This change was especially seen beginning in the 1960s, after the Civil Rights movement.

In a similar vein, they are also diagnosed with PTSD and other mood disorders far less likely than white men.

Representation and cultural understanding is important in a therapeutic environment. However, more than 86% of American psychologists are white, and less than 4% of the American Psychological Association members identify as African American, 5% identify as Asian, and 5% are Latinx.

The stigma surrounding mental health is pervasive in almost every culture. However, some minority communities have a greater stigma around seeking mental health treatment and how to treat those with mental illnesses. Many seeking therapy are looking for a counselor within a similar age range, gender, race, and socioeconomic background as themselves.

“In Hispanic cultures, in black cultures, you’re expected to tough it out,” Michelle Álvarez, a North Carolina therapist and woman of color, told NPR. “Therapy is for crazy people. Why would you go and air your dirty laundry to a stranger? I think some people might see it as a luxury for white people.”

A California well-being study in 2017 showed that of all ethnicities, Asian-Americans reported the highest levels of self-stigma and were less hopeful than White Californians that those with mental health diagnoses could be contributing members of society.

Contact Us Today

If you’re looking for a racially diverse staff of mental health professionals, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

When you think of the well-being of a child, you first think of basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are met, however, it’s crucial for a child to have emotional and social wellness as well. In this article, we will explore the impact social wellness has on the overall health of a child and great ways for children to garner social support in their lives.

It comes as no surprise that as human beings, we all need connection with others, no matter what stage of life we are in. In fact, having social support is a social determinant of health (SDOH) that significantly impacts the health of an individual. After spending the last few years in and out of isolation due to the Covid-19 outbreak, social support is more important now than ever before. Having social support means having family members and friends you can talk to and seek advice from when life feels challenging and overwhelming. Knowing you’re not alone in your life journey, especially as a child, creates a sense of belonging and empowerment throughout one’s life.

4 Types of Social Support

Emotional Support. This type of support lets you know that people care about you and have empathy for your experiences. Emotional support often looks like people checking in on you to let you know they’re thinking of you, and that they are there if you need anything. As a parent, make sure your child knows you can be a sounding board for them. If you have family members who can also show up for your children in this way, even better!

Practical Help. This type of support is when people give you something tangible or offer a service to help you out. This could be in the form of money, making food when you are sick, or helping to pack when moving. Having family and friends show up in this way shows your child what it looks like to be present for people you love.

Sharing Points of View. This type of support can often come in the form of affirmations and encouragement. For example, pointing out your child’s strengths to them and reminding them they can do anything they put their mind to. It can also look like sharing another perspective if they are being hard on themselves. For example, if they are angry with themselves after receiving a bad grade on a test, you can help them see it as a learning experience and a way for them to grow.

Sharing Information. This type of support is when someone shares what they’ve learned from their own life experiences. For example, if another parent has a child who struggles with socializing, they can share some tips and tricks they’ve learned to help their child find and create social support.

The Importance of Social Groups and Extended Support

Children who are connected to their family, friends, and people in their community have opportunities to learn how to speak, share, and get along with others. When your child feels connected to people in your neighborhood, it often allows them to feel physically safe which can alleviate stress and worry. Simply riding bikes, going on walks, and saying hello to neighbors with your kids can create this sense of security for them.

In addition to engaging with your neighbors, getting involved in local organizations can also create social support for your child. Signing up for a sports team, musical theater, art class or summer camp are all great ways to help your child meet new friends and learn important social skills that can carry them through their lives.

Tips for Helping Kids Make Community Connections:

Spend time outside in your neighborhood playing on the playground, going to a local farmer’s market, or scheduling a playdate with neighborhood kids.

Show your kids that connection is a two-way street. If your neighbors or friends go out of town, offer to get their mail, or water their plants and take your child with you when you go. This will show your child how you show up for people you care about.

Make sure you make time for socializing with friends as well. Your child looks to you first and foremost for how they should act and live their own life.

Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone and do something they may be scared to do. As a parent, it’s your job to push them into something social for their own well-being at times.