The Real: Racial Barriers For Minority Men In Mental Health
By: Jada Vanderpool
In the era of self-love mental health and wellness is a trending topic.
Self-love is exemplified through bubble baths, boundary setting, self-affirmations and more. It restores confidence in ethnic groups and encourages us all to love our very best selves, but nonetheless mental health care is still a challenge nationwide, and even more for minorities.
Availability, accessibility and quality of mental health services raise a problem. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, compared to White Hispanics African Americans treatment at a 50% lower rate than non-Hispanic whites; Hispanic/Latinos receive treatment at a 40% lower rate; American Indians/Alaska Native receive treatment at 40% lower rate, and Asian American receive treatment at a 70% lower rate.
And men are more prone to challenges than recognized. A study shows that stress in minority males effects health directly through psychological behaviors and indirectly through health behaviors and practices.
Men respond to stress in less healthy ways than women and turn to coping strategies like alcohol consumption, denial and distraction as opposed to seeking help.
Depression is the leading cause mental health issues in men. And though it is reported that lifetime depression is higher among whites than minorities at 17.9% in whites, 12.9% in Caribbean Blacks and 10.4% in African Americans, chronic depression is higher for both groups of black people is significantly higher than that of white, at 56% for Caribbean Blacks, 56% for African Americans and 38.6% for whites.
Suicide is the sixth leading cause of deaths in American Indian and Alaska Native males and the eighth leading death in Hispanic males and Asian/Pacific Islander males.
The American Psychological Association points to Socioeconomic Status (SES) as some of the largest factors, including educational attainment, financial security, and subjective perceptions of social status and social class.
The Breakdown of Mental Health Barriers
Lack of Access
Larke Huang, PhD, director of the Office of Behavioral Health Equity at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration told Nation’s Health Publication that there is a lack of sufficient mental health professionals working in the public health system like community health clinics or county departments for mental health.
Health centers like these are typically found in largely minority populated neighborhoods. And, it is costly if health care plans and copay do not offer sufficient health care providers.
The US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health reports that 9.4% of non Hispanic Blacks received mental health care compared to 18.8% whites.
Social constructs set standards of manliness with phrases like “boys don’t cry,” “be a man” and “a man’s job is to provide.” This gender role emphasizes a man’s role to take care of his family, be strong and to surpress signs of vulnerability.
Gender roles are common in any race, but minorities are highly exposed to more challenges like poverty, trauma and discrimination on a daily basis. Minority men report on daily incidents life experiences like racism, homicide, invisibility and suicide than minority women, but are culturally are less likely to be vulnerable about how their experiences are affect them. In turn, minority men suppress their emotions, deem mental health services as weak and dismiss therapy as as a self help tool.
Racism and Bias
Implicit bias and stereotyping against minority patients is no single, uncommon act. Many minority patients simply do not trust they’d receive the proper health care needed, or that they connect with health professionals that understand them. Reports show misdiagnosis and mistreatments from health professionals to minority patients, specifically black minorities. People of color are often misdiagnosed with extreme psychological conditions compared to white patients, despite having similar symptoms.
How Can We Change?
Train More Diverse Mental Health Care Professionals
More health care professionals that are trained to recognize the racial barrier in mental health, understand how social and economic factors affect minorities, and identify care solutions that truly help patients and their families. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Minority Fellowship Program works to reduce health disparities and improve health care outcomes for minority populations, and trains roughly 120 minority mental health practitioners a year to be culturally competent in treating minority patients.
In 2016, rapper Kid Cudi publicly announced his mental health issues with depression and anxiety. What followed was a frenzy of support and a twitter hashtag #Yougoodman that started the conversation of mental health wellness in black men.
The conversation and support around minority mental health care needs to continue on platforms that reach people. This can also be more community outreach programs that speak to communities about mental health, how real it is to everyone and treatment options.