In 2014, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that significant behavioral health disparities continue to persist among diverse populations across the U.S. Since July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, Janell Lane, MA, LMHC, Parkview Community Partner Initiatives Coordinator, helps us understand some of the barriers to care that minorities may face.
A number of factors contribute to the differences in mental health care among different people groups, including cost, poor access to care, and higher social, environmental, and economic risk factors. Several other barriers to treatment experienced by minorities that are less commonly discussed include:
Super Woman vs. Tough Guise. The need to always be “strong” or appear to have it all together despite the circumstances.
Fear of shaming the family. Fear of embarrassing the family by appearing weak, sharing private information or disclosing family secrets.
Pray it away. Feeling as though one has a “lack of faith” if they don’t believe they can be spiritually delivered or healed from their stressors, negative feelings or mental health concerns.
Avoiding the discomfort of others. Not acknowledging negative feelings or the need for help due to the fear that others don’t really care, don’t really want to know, or will be made uncomfortable by not knowing what to say or do to help.
Lack of mental/behavioral health professionals from diverse cultural backgrounds. There continues to be a lack of diversity among mental health professionals. Many people prefer a therapist of the same culture because topics discussed in therapy sessions are deemed more relevant and less time is spent explaining things that are culturally normed. However, the lack of diversity coupled with the discomfort of requesting a counselor of a specific race can be a deterrent to seeking help.
For those seeking mental health care, request a therapist that best matches your preferences (male or female, specific cultural backgrounds, approach/style of therapy, etc.) and don’t be afraid to express those preferences up front. Once you’ve found a therapist, discuss any spiritual or religious preferences and/or boundaries, and as cultural differences come up in your treatment, make sure you discuss the issues head on. Simply “dropping out” or terminating therapy with your provider, does not help your provider improve and grow for the sake of future clients, nor does it provide them with an opportunity to process through the situation in a healing way with you.
If you have a bad experience seeking treatment, don’t rule out therapy altogether. If treatment doesn’t go well with one provider, find a provider that better meets your needs, just as you would with a physician if you required treatment for a serious health matter.
For anyone seeking mental health resources, call the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine at (260) 373-7500 or 800-284-8439. The HelpLine is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.