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July marks National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, a crucial time to address mental challenges among people of color. In this first article, Impireum will mainly discuss the various behavioral health issues that U.S. BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) adults and seniors are currently facing.

Later in the month, we’ll address mental health awareness topics concerning BIPOC youth and young adults. Understanding this unique population’s mental health landscape is essential for fostering awareness and encouraging positive change.

Examining the Current Mental Health Stats for Various U.S. Ethnic Groups

Mental wellness issues disproportionately affect people of color in the U.S. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2021, approximately 19.2% of Black adults and 17.3% of Hispanic adults experienced mental illness, compared to 22.6% of white adults.

Mental health care for elderly people of color.

However, these figures often underestimate the actual prevalence due to under-reporting and lack of access to mental health care. Among elderly1 populations, people of color are particularly vulnerable, with higher rates of depression and anxiety reported but significantly lower rates of treatment and diagnosis.

Depression and Anxiety Rates Post-Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health issues across all demographics, with people of color being among the hardest hit. Studies show a significant increase in depression and anxiety rates starting in 2022, with minority communities experiencing heightened trauma and stress due to economic instability, health disparities, and loss of loved ones.

The American Psychological Association (APA) reported that Black and Hispanic adults, especially women2, were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression than their white counterparts during and after the pandemic.

Suicide Rates Among People of Color is Worth Noting

As of the most recent 2021 data, the annual suicide rates among the BIPOC population in the U.S. remain lower compared to whites, with one exception. However, there are critical nuances worth noting:

Black/African American Population Suicide Rate- Reported Mental Health Issue:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)3, the suicide rate among Black Americans is approximately 7.4 per 100,000 as of 2021. This number is significantly lower than the rate for white individuals, which is roughly 18.3 per 100,000.

Suicide Rate of U.S. Hispanic/Latino Population:

The suicide rate among Hispanic individuals is about 7.8 per 100,000. This rate is also lower than that of white individuals but has been increased in recent years.

Current Asian American and Pacific Islander Population Suicide Rate:

This group has a lower overall suicide rate, at around 6.6 per 100,000. However, disparities exist within subgroups, with some experiencing higher rates of suicide. Underreporting is the most significant variable that could pose an annual threat to the results of actual reported percentage rates.

Mental Health and Suicide Rate Among the American Indian/Alaska Native Population:

Unfortunately, this group still faces the highest suicide rates among all racial/ethnic groups, at approximately 23.9 per 100,000. This rate is significantly higher than that of white individuals and highlights severe mental wellness disparities within this community.

Diagram: Pie chart comparing suicide rates among different ethnic groups in the U.S. based on recent CDC data.

In all, the reported suicide rates for Black, Hispanic, and Asian American populations are lower compared to white individuals, while rates among American Indian or Alaska Natives remain highest. Yet, the increasing trends and unique challenges faced by these communities still underscore the need for targeted mental health interventions and support.

NATIONAL SUICIDE LIFELINEDial or Text 988 for immediate assistance!

Be aware of the cultural barriers and treatment disparities among BIPOC populations.

Barriers to mental health care among minority populations include socioeconomic challenges, lack of insurance, and cultural mistrust of healthcare systems.

People of color often face treatment disparities, with fewer options for culturally competent care and lower rates of follow-up treatment. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) highlights that only one in three Black adults with mental health issues receives treatment, compared to nearly half of white adults.

Current Mental Health Stigmas and Societal Pressures For People of Color

Stigma and societal pressures still significantly deter people of color from seeking mental health services. Cultural stigmas surrounding mental health often label those seeking help as weak, leading to internalized shame and reluctance to access care. Societal pressures, including discrimination and racial trauma, also contribute to the mental health burden, creating a vicious cycle of untreated mental illness.

National Trends and Strategic Treatment Solutions for BIPOC Populations

To combat the BIPOC population’s mental health challenges, several national trends and strategic solutions are emerging. Increasing awareness and education about mental health in minority communities is crucial. Over the years, there have been increased awareness initiatives and programs made available in:

  • Local churches/religious organizations
  • Neighborhood centers
  • Public service districts that primarily operate in underserved communities
  • The VA

In addition, programs aimed at training more culturally competent mental health professionals are also expanding.

Community health centers and telehealth/telepsychiatry services have also become valuable resources, providing more accessible and flexible treatment options. In addition, there are initiatives like the APA’s Minority Fellowship Program. This program aims to increase the number of minority mental health professionals, enhancing the diversity and cultural competence within the field.

Take the first step with Impireum!

In conclusion, addressing mental health issues among people of color requires a multifaceted approach that includes raising awareness, reducing stigma, improving access to care, and fostering cultural competence in mental health services.

At Impireum, we encourage you to allow this month’s focus on mental health awareness to serve as a pivotal opportunity to advocate for these changes and support the mental well-being of all people. Whether you are:

  1. Part of the mental health care industry
  2. A parent or friend of someone of color who is dealing with mental health issues or
  3. Personally dealing with mental health issues— Now is the time to speak out!  

The bottom line? It’s never too late to seek the treatment you or a loved one needs, and at Impireum, help is much closer than you think! To get started, contact us online or call us at 346-361-0100 for immediate assistance.

References
  • Featured Image Concept:  Depressed Black Man in the City, by whoislimos.
  • 1- Senior couple holding hands. Image concept by Nappy
  • 2- Depressed woman of color at bedside. Image concept by  Claudia Wolff
  • 3- CDC Suicide Prevention, United States “Suicide Data and Statistics”- April 2024. Retrieved- June 20, 2024.