Each July, BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month is observed to shine light on the unique barriers that underrepresented communities face when it comes to mental health. Officially founded in 2008, this month reminds us that mental health conditions can impact people of all races, ethnicities, and cultures. There are many important conversations that we should be having this month. Today, we are introducing you to some particularly relevant topics.
Access to Services
BIPOC experience mental health disorders at similar rates to white Americans. However, when we look at differences in the accessibility of mental health care, disparities begin to emerge. While it is true that most mental illnesses go without treatment, this is especially true for BIPOC individuals. BIPOC are less likely to both seek out or receive care. This is due to a number of factors. According to health journalist Shanon Lee, the cost of services, insurance restrictions, and the attitudes of some providers all play a role. BIPOC may also be unable to dedicate time to mental health treatment. This is because they are more likely to face inequalities when it comes to housing, employment, and education.
BIPOC Representation Amongst Mental Health Workers
BIPOC are underrepresented amongst those who are seeking mental health care and those providing it. According to the American Psychological Association, 83% of psychologists were white in the year 2019. Black, Hispanic, and Asian psychologists were reported as making up much smaller percentages of the field. This lack of diversity in the field presents challenges. For example, it may prevent clients from seeing providers who have a greater understanding of their experiences. This is important because we want clients to feel heard and receive care that is culturally sensitive.
Quality of Care
We have already established that BIPOC are less likely to receive mental health care. But even when they do receive care, it is also less likely that it will be of high quality. A big part of this is cultural competence, which ties back to the lack of representation in the mental health field. If clients are unable to find a clinician of a similar background, they may end up seeing someone who is unable to recognize the manifestations of mental health disorders in underrepresented populations. There could also be language barriers and a limited awareness of how the client’s culture impacts their mental health and response to treatment. Without widespread culturally competent care, the quality of services is deficient for BIPOC communities. This is just one of many reasons why it is important to diversify the mental health field.
These topics are just a few of the conversations that we should be having this BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month of July, continue to learn about how BIPOC are impacted by mental health and what you can do to help!