There is no secret + no surprise that people of color are one of the largest underrepresented groups when it comes to mental health care. July is marked as mental health awareness month for Black, Indigenous, People of Color and this topic of health is right on time.
July has been designated to amplify the major need that is very apparent in our communities in a hope to take away the stigmata surrounding mental health.
Mental health especially in communities of color isn’t normalized or discussed openly. There has always been bit of a stigmata surrounding health care professionals and seeking out counseling. This is largely due to our history of care or lack there of.
With the shift in conversation over race, inequality + rights, the blindspots in mental health care when it comes to people of color are being revealed for the very first time. The world is able to see the many different issues that affect minorities mentally.
From injustices, systemic racism and the huge disparities within the healthcare systems as a whole prevents people that look like me from seeking out help.
One of the first steps to normalizing seeking out mental health aid is understanding barriers within and around communities of color. Without really understanding the dynamics of the barriers there really cant be any significant change.
- Cultural Perceptions: Cultural perceptions play a huge role in the relationship between mental health professionals and those seeking out help. How a health professional can relate to the issues or concerns about topics is very important. Because there is a gap in the number of non people of color vs. people of color in the mental health profession, often times what a BIPOC may be going through can be completely missed, misunderstood or even dismissed simply because they can not relate.
- Mistrust: There is a long history of mistreatment between communities of color and the health profession. Based on that history, there is a complete mistrust that we will be treated equally, fairly and with our best interest in mind.
- Limited Access: Having health insurance that includes mental health is a barrier in itself as many people especially now are without health insurance. Those who are uninsured may have access to free health care services within their counties, however those service are extremely limited. Often times there are several steps required to even qualify for these free limited services. The many steps required can be discouraging + people are less likely to use the service. Services are also over extended + those who do qualify are provided with lower quality of care leaving people under serviced. Limited access doesn’t just stop at getting services, this continues on for medications and any sort of follow up.
- Discrimination: Unfortunately discrimination goes without saying, but because it plays such a huge part in the gap it has to be mentioned. Mental health services is not made available in all insurance plans. Often time seeking counsel or getting these types of services are done out of pocket. The cost of getting help isn’t exactly reasonable especially if you consider the potential wage gap. This makes mental health care a luxury when it really should be an essential item the same as yearly checkups.
While there are many other barriers that have aided in the under served community, we are in a very exciting time as things are changing in regards to mental health and people of color. Now more than ever resources are being shared + steps are being taken to bridge the gap! And I am 100% here for it. From sliding scale pay, insurance based, to even selecting a provider that looks like you. The playing field isn’t quite leveled but it is getting there. As a person who believes in seeking out the help. Especially help to better yourself I am super excited about this shift.
I want to share this link of an amazing resource that puts your mental health as a form of self care back in your hands. In the spirit of BIPOC Mental Health awareness month in the upcoming weeks I will be sharing more resources and even more about my own personal mental health journey. Let’s keep this conversation going and normalizing seeking out help we we need it!