Mental Illness Doesn’t Discriminate, So Why Do We?
Mental health is an important part of every human - regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, etc. Mental illness can also occur in every human - regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, geographic location, etc. Even still, why is it that minority people are notably less likely to seek treatment and support for their mental health? That is a million dollar question that doesn’t have a concrete or finite answer.
Some possible explanations include socio-economic status (SES) and stigma. Many minority groups have historically been known to have lower SES due to systemic flaws and barriers. In turn, these groups are less financially able to receive quality care. Similarly, there seems to be increased stigma around mental health amongst people of color. Culturally, it can be viewed as weak and shameful to acknowledge struggles with mental health. Growing up with this norm perpetuates a cycle of stigma that continues across generations. This stigma can discourage many people from acknowledging their mental health and accepting that treatment can have a positive impact.
Another reason that minority groups may be less likely to seek out mental healthcare is due to lack of representation. While the diversity of mental health providers has increased, there is a significant amount of growth that remains. It can be very difficult to connect with providers who do not understand your racial and ethnic background or even fluently speak the same language as you. Being able to relate with your mental health provider is vital to a prospective healthcare journey.
Similar to lack of representation, discrimination is alive and well in many places of care. Having worked in various treatment settings such as schools, hospitals, and clinics, there are many times where people in minority groups are not taken seriously or treated properly due to their pronouns, race, sexuality, etc. While a world with no discrimination at all is hard to realistically imagine, I hope that we can continue working towards decreased prejudice and racism, especially in treatment settings that are meant to be safe spaces.
Regardless of your personal demographics, you absolutely deserve to prioritize your health and wellbeing. It is culturally acceptable and encouraged to take care of our physical health, so the same should be said about our mental health - especially since the two are extremely intertwined and equally important. If you are struggling with your mental health, please know that help is available and that we can all contribute to widening the margins of care for everyone by keeping this conversation going, decreasing the stigma, and encouraging each other!
Priya Hajari, LPC
I am drawn to the field of counseling because I have repeatedly seen the impact of being heard and feeling understood. I believe that talk therapy can provide relief and solace for everyone and allow them to feel comfortable in their own skin. I enjoy working with teens and adults struggling with anxiety, depression, self-identity, self-esteem, and stress management.