National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Among its designation as one of the hottest months in the height of Summer, July is also set aside as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The hashtag theme of the 2019 campaign is #DepthOfMyIdentity. Sadly, in addition to the negative stigma surrounding all mental illnesses among minorities, minorities are less likely to even receive a diagnosis or treatment for their illness. Unfortunately, most minorities have less access to mental health care, and more often than not, those pursuing treatment usually receive a poorer quality of care.

Despite some slight advances in equity, disparities in mental health care between whites and minorities persist. According to The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States (in addition to having less access to quality mental health care) are less likely to use community health services. Instead, they're more likely to use emergency rooms, and as a consequence receive lower quality care.

Based on statistics stemming from late 2017, 41.5% of white youth, ages 12-17 received quality care for a major episode, but only 31.5% of Black youth and 32.7% of Hispanic youth received treatment for their condition. The numbers are significantly lower for Alaskan and Native American groups at 16.3% respectively. As a whole, Asian American adults were less likely to use mental health services than any other racial group.

Unfortunately, over the past 20 years, suicides are on the rise for all minorities. Research has shown that the United States' suicide rate increased by more than 30% for more than half of the states between 1999-2016. In some states, the increase of suicides was as high as 58%. In 2016, it was estimated to be around 13.4 out of every 100,000 people, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the nation. The American Association for Suicidology (AAS) estimates there were more than 1.1 million suicide attempts in 2016 alone--translating to an attempt every 28 seconds. The numbers are even more mind boggling when factoring in minorities and homeless veterans.

Mental health should be a serious issue for everyone, but especially for minorities. We can no longer afford to look the other way, bury our heads in the sand, and pretend it doesn't exist. It deserves our utmost attention, advocacy, focus, and action because none of us can afford the steep price of ignorance and inaction regarding mental health treatment for minorities.

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