Everyone faces barriers to mental health care, but individuals from minority communities are often uniquely disadvantaged when it comes to mental health access. Barriers can include lack of insurance (or underinsurance, as mental health care is sometimes not included in health care plans), lack of transportation to appointments, prohibitive cost, and more. According to a 2019 NAMI California survey, the three greatest obstacles to mental health care reported by diverse patients and caregivers were cost, stigma within their communities, and lack of culturally competent services. To quote one participant, “We have been knocking on county mental health services’ doors for years.”
So, what can be done to improve mental health services and outcomes for diverse communities? One important early step is to work within communities and with community leaders to educate about mental illnesses and lower the stigma about seeking mental health services. It's important that practitioners address culturally-specific traumas as well as community strengths. For an example of one group that practices this, check out the Center for Native Child and Family Resilience. By giving priority to community leaders and centering traditional spiritual and healing customs in development of community programming (see this example of using the Indigenous Medicine Wheel), the Center offers more holistic outcomes than traditional social and mental health frameworks for many Native American and Alaskan Native communities.
This is just one step. The United States also needs to commit to more comprehensive mental health care included in health insurance for all, as well as requiring ongoing implicit bias training and cultural competency courses for social workers and mental health care professionals. Poor mental health outcomes have adverse effects on not only individuals, but also families, communities, and society as a whole. It snowballs into something that affects everyone. The CDC has even called it a “global public health issue.” Considering the consequences, who wouldn’t be invested in improving mental health care for all?
Better mental health for all starts with access for all. Are you interested in therapy, but worried about the cost? You may qualify for state-sponsored therapy. Check the following links for more information:
Choose another state: https://blog.opencounseling.com/public-mental-health-in/