Why National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is Important

by | Jul 26, 2022 | Equity, Mental Health

Forward, Together with western tidewater community services board

The facts are that millions of people are affected by mental illness each year across the country. 46% of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life, but the background and identity of many of the affected individuals makes access to mental health care much more difficult.

To bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental Illness, in 2008 the U.S. House of Representatives declared each July as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.

This special month is attributed to author and advocate for mental health Bebe Moore Campbell, who worked tirelessly to bring public awareness to minority mental health. Her dedication arose from her struggles to support her daughter who battled with mental illness “and a system that prevented her from getting help and support.”

“While everyone – all colors – everyone is affected by stigma – no one wants to say, ‘I’m not in control of my mind.’ No one wants to say, ‘The person I love is not in control of [their] mind.’

But people of color really don’t want to say it because we already feel stigmatized by virtue of skin color or eye shape or accent and we don’t want any more reasons for anyone to say, ‘You’re not good enough.’” – Bebe Moore Campbell

Why Minority Mental Health Awareness is Important

The population of our country is growing, and it grows more ethnically and racially diverse as it expands, but even with the diversity index being higher than 50% in many states (via census.gov), disparities in mental health status and mental health care continue.

Psyschiatry.org reports, “Most racial/ethnic minority groups overall have similar—or in some cases, fewer—mental disorders than whites. However, the consequences of mental illness in minorities may be long lasting.”

Here is a synopsis of some of the reported statistics and disparities:

  • Ethnic/racial minorities often bear a disproportionately high burden of disability resulting from mental disorders.
  • Depression rates are lower in Blacks (24.6%) and Hispanics (19.6%) than in whites (34.7%), but depression in blacks and Hispanics is likely to be more persistent.
  • Mental health problems are common among people in the criminal justice system, which has a disproportionate representation of racial/ethnic minorities. Approximately 50% to 75% of youth in the juvenile justice system meet criteria for a mental health disorder.
  • Racial/ethnic minority youth with behavioral health issues are more readily referred to the juvenile justice system than to specialty primary care, compared with white youth. Minorities are also more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system due to harsh disciplinary suspension and expulsion practices in schools.
  • Lack of cultural understanding by health care providers may contribute to underdiagnosis and/or misdiagnosis of mental illness in people from racially/ethnically diverse populations. Factors that contribute to these kinds of misdiagnoses include language differences between patient and provider, stigma of mental illness among minority groups, and cultural presentation of symptoms.

The most common barriers that prevent racial minority groups from obtaining mental health care include:

  • Cost & Insurance – Unaffordable rates and lack of insurance
  • Location & Transportation – Lack of culturally competent providers in the community
  • Transportation – Lack of transportation for those living in rural areas
  • Distrust – Not trusting the health care system
  • Stigma – Negative beliefs about mental illness (i.e., it is a sign of weakness or a cause for shame)

To eliminate some of these barriers, we must educate and foster our communities with the absolute truth of What IS Mental Health, and promote access to mental health care for everyone.

This effort must start with each individual and ensure that it is spread to our communities, as well as to our local and government agencies.

The American Psychological Association outlines the need for health care reform in their publication, Disparities in Mental Health Status and Mental Health Care:

The lack of attention to the mental and behavioral health needs of racial and ethnic minorities and the inadequate provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health care in racial and ethnic minority communities demonstrates a clear need for encouraging collaboration and finding ways to close the gap in care. The federal government has a critical role to play in addressing the issue of racial and ethnic disparities in mental health status and mental health care by supporting legislation and regulations that will improve the health and well-being of minorities.

No Shame – Get the Help You Need Today

Feelings like shame, fear, and guilt can all be contributing factors to the stigma of seeking out mental health services, which can cause mental health challenges and disorders to worsen.

When we compound this stigma with someone’s cultural, racial, and economic background, this can create the idea that mental health treatment will be ineffectual and can prevent those who need treatment from seeking it out.

Western Tidewater Community Services Board is dedicated to making sure that all members of our community have the skills and resources they need to achieve a sense of well-being and purpose in life.

We are a community of hope and caring.

We’re here and ready to connect 24/7. We make access to professional, high-quality, wrap-around care convenient and easy – including Same Day Access for crisis intervention.


WTCSB Services

We provide integrated services and relief for multiple mental health needs, support for individuals with developmental disabilities, and substance abuse help.

Same Day Access

Our exclusive Same-Day Access to care and 24/7 crisis intervention means our caring team of clinicians and counselors are always within reach.

Who We Are

Western Tidewater CSB is the leading authority in mental health and developmental services in Franklin, Suffolk, Isle of Wight County, and Southampton County. Learn more about what truly sets us apart.