July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and various organizations are highlighting the disparities diverse populations face when it comes to mental illness. In May of 2008, the US House of Representatives named July the National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The resolution that passed intended to not only increase access to services and spread awareness about mental health, but to also hone in on the spreading awareness about minorities with mental illnesses.
One in five Americans will experience a mental health problem in their lifetimes, yet nearly two-thirds of people that are diagnosed with a mental illness do not seek treatment. While mental illness does not discriminate. July as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, providing the opportunity to come together and increase awareness of mental illness and mental health promotion while embracing the diversity of our community. This month must be seen as an opportunity to not only increase awareness for mental illness, but also to promote long-term solutions that address the uniqueness of America’s minority communities. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), levels of stigma associated with mental health conditions are much higher in multicultural communities.
As mental illnesses revolve around the brain, it may seem strange at first glance to consider that diversity elements like ethnicity, race or culture could impact one’s experience with mental illness. Upon further examination, it becomes clear that these very factors lead to minority groups receiving lower quality treatment and seeking out mental health services less frequently. The US Surgeon General even presented findings stating while mental health was a very real issue for the population at large, that distinct disparities existed for minority groups. These disparities included that minority groups would be less likely to seek out treatment and that there was a lack of research focused on minority groups and mental illness.
Innovations in the range of evidence based medications, therapy and psychosocial services such as psychiatric rehabilitation, housing, employment and peer supports have made wellness and recovery a reality for people living with mental health conditions. Choosing the right mix of treatments and supports that work for you is an important step in the recovery process. Treatment choices for mental health conditions will vary from person to person. Even people with the same diagnosis will have different experiences, needs, goals and objectives for treatment. There is no “one size fits all” treatment “.
There are many tools that can improve the experience on the road to wellness: medication, counseling (therapy), social support and education. Therapy, for example, can take many forms, from learning relaxation skills to intensively reworking your thinking patterns. Social support, acceptance and encouragement from friends, family and others can also make a difference. Education about how to manage a mental health condition along with other medical conditions can provide the skills and supports to enrich the unique journey toward overall recovery and wellness. Together with a treatment team you can develop a well-rounded and integrated recovery plan that may include counseling, medications, support groups, education programs and other strategies that work for you.