Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It impacts how we view ourselves, handle stress, build relationships, and contribute to our communities. There are many complex factors that influence mental health, and it’s experienced differently from one person to the next.
Struggles with mental health can impact anyone, but Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) populations face unique risk factors and barriers to treatment. In some cases, they can be more likely to experience certain mental illnesses and less likely to receive treatment, and often have limited access to quality care. That’s why we want to bring attention to July being BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month.
What Is BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month?
BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month sheds light on the unique challenges that underrepresented communities in the United States face when it comes to mental health. Observed in July, this month aims to eliminate mental health disparities and improve access to quality mental health treatment for all.
It was founded in 2008 in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell, a bestselling author, mental health advocate, and founder of the National Mental Health Alliance (NAMI) Urban Los Angeles. Inspired by Moore Campbell’s personal experiences with a family member, this NAMI affiliate was one of the first created primarily to address the needs of communities of color.
Schedule a private call with a Ria Health team member and we can help you get started.
Unique Risks for Mental Health Issues in the BIPOC Community
Any person can experience mental illness, but BIPOC individuals are more likely to face risk factors that contribute to mental health issues. They are also less likely to receive treatment.
Risk factors for mental health issues and barriers to treatment include:
- Racism– The experience of racism or discrimination, both systemic and personal, leads to high levels of persistent stress. It chips away at self-confidence, can lead to constant vigilance and fear, and may result in feelings of hopelessness. It is a form of trauma, and research shows that experiencing trauma nearly triples the risk of mental illness.
- Stigma– Stigma and shame attached to mental health issues is a common barrier to treatment. But it’s an even greater barrier in BIPOC communities, where mental illness is often viewed as a personal weakness. Additionally, many people seek support from their faith communities instead of a medical professional.
- Lack of diverse providers– The vast majority of mental health providers are white, presenting barriers of language and culture for those struggling with mental health in BIPOC communities. In 2015, 86% of U.S. psychologists were white. And in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 88% of mental health counselors and close to 70% of social workers were white.
- Economic inequality– Economic inequality disproportionately affects BIPOC communities, which can cause or worsen mental health issues and create barriers to treatment. Economic inequality contributes to greater unemployment, lack of health insurance or being underinsured, and transportation challenges that can make it difficult to access treatment.
Mental Health Disparities in the BIPOC Community
BIPOC mental health statistics suggest disparities in the rate of some mental illnesses, the likelihood of receiving treatment, and the quality of care received. For example:
- 34.9% of multiracial adults in the United States experience mental illness annually, the highest percentage of any group. The second highest percentage of adults experiencing mental illness is among American Indian or Alaska Natives, with 26.6% affected each year.
- According to Mental Health America, Indigenous people are more likely than other groups to screen positive or at-risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder.
- Black female high school students are 60% more likely to attempt suicide than their white female counterparts.
- In 2021, just 39% of Black adults, 35% of Latino/Hispanic adults, and 25% of Asian adults with mental illness were treated, compared to 52% of white adults.
- To be most effective, mental health treatments should be tailored for individuals according to age, gender, race, ethnicity, and culture. Yet treatment guidelines for mental health disorders are developed from clinical studies involving largely white populations, or for which data on race and ethnicity are not provided.
- Additionally, evidence suggests that BIPOC patients with mental health disorders are less likely than white patients to receive treatment that adheres to existing treatment guidelines.
Mental Health Resources for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
The following resources provide support and helpful information about BIPOC mental health:
- Virtual directory of culturally competent therapists from Inclusive Therapists
For immediate text support, reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting COALITION to 741741. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Addiction and Mental Health Issues
It’s common for people with anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders to try self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs.
Unfortunately, addiction and mental health issues are closely linked. While alcohol and other drugs can temporarily relieve symptoms of mental health disorders, they make matters worse in the long run.
In some cases, heavy use of substances like alcohol can even create mental health issues. For example, struggles with either alcohol use disorder (AUD) or depression doubles a person’s risk of developing the other problem. Heavy alcohol use also worsens symptoms of mental health disorders like anxiety and PTSD. Ultimately, using substances to self-medicate creates a vicious cycle, with mental health issues worsening addiction and addiction worsening mental health issues.
If you’ve found yourself caught in this cycle, Ria Health can help. Our affordable telemedicine app includes weekly check-ins with a personal recovery coach, medications to reduce alcohol cravings, online support group meetings, and digital tools to track your progress. You decide whether you want to cut back on alcohol or quit completely, and our team of experts will guide you through it.