Mental Health America Calls for Action To End Mental Health Disparities
Culturally Competent Services Can Remove Barriers
Contact: Steve Vetzner, (703) 797-2588 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 15,2009)-In recognition of National Minority Health Month, Mental Health America is calling for action to end the disparities that exist for people of color in need of mental health care and treatment.
The month of April was designated as National Minority Health Month in response to Healthy People 2010, the Surgeon General's 10-year health objectives for the nation issued in 2000, which include a focus on the elimination of health disparities among different segments of the population.
Even more than other areas of health and medicine, the mental health field is plagued by disparities in the availability of and access to its services. Financial barriers often prevent too many Americans from receiving mental health care, regardless of whether or not they have insurance.
Nearly a decade ago, then-U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher described the striking disparities in mental health care for racial and ethnic minorities.
"We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness about the opportunities for recovery from mental illness to erect these barriers. It is time to take them down," he said in 2001.
"Communities of color continue to have less access to mental health services than White Americans and they are even less likely to receive needed services and receive poorer quality care when they receive it," said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. "We have to take action to permanently remove barriers and ensure all Americans have access to mental health care."
Overall, only one-third of Americans with a mental illness or a mental health problem get care. Yet, the percentage of African Americans receiving needed care is only half that of non-Hispanic whites. Nearly one out of two Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders have difficulty accessing mental health treatment because they do not speak English or cannot find services that meet their language needs. One national study found that only 24% of Hispanics with depression and anxiety received appropriate care, compared to 34% of whites. Twenty-four percent of Native Americans lack health insurance, compared with 16 percent of the U.S. population.
In addition, minorities are underrepresented in research.
Poverty, lack of service and supports, fragmentation of services, pervasive stigma and prejudice, language barriers and lack of cultural competence in service delivery all impact the mental health of diverse racial and ethnic groups.
Mental health care disparities may also stem from minorities' historic and present day struggles with racism and discrimination. This affects mental health and contributes to a lower economic, social, and political status and combined, these contribute to mental health disparities.
A lack of culturally competent mental health care contributes to the mental health disparities suffered by communities of color. A culturally and linguistically competent mental health system incorporates skills, attitudes, and policies to ensure that it is effectively addressing the needs of consumers and families with diverse values, beliefs, and sexual orientations, in addition to backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity, religion, and language. It tailors treatment to fit a consumer's cultural model.
Shern said it is essential that all aspects of mental health systems be reflective of the diversity of the communities that they serve and that mental health agencies strive to become and remain culturally and linguistically competent.
Celebrating 100 years of mental health advocacy, Mental Health America is the country's leading nonprofit dedicated to helping all people live mentally healthier lives. With our more than 300 affiliates nationwide, we represent a growing movement of Americans who promote mental wellness for the health and well-being of the nation-everyday and in times of crisis. In 2009, we are marking a century of achievement with a year-long Centennial Observance: "Celebrating the Legacy. Forging the Future."