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Minorities and Mental Health Care

Black History Month is the perfect time to discuss the disparities in Minority Mental Health Care. The list of minorities suffering this gap in service reaches far beyond the African-American population. Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, Arab Americans, Hasidic Jews, and the Amish are often influenced by cultural and religious teachings which associate social stigma with mental illness. Ancient beliefs of demonic possession, sorcery, and the evil eye as origins of mental illness (across racial, cultural, and ethnic groups) greatly contribute to attitudes against mental health care.

Historically, minority communities experienced difficulty in accessing mental healthcare. Today many ethnic and religious organizations are confronting this disparity head-on: The Catholic Health Association, The Institute of Muslim Mental Health, the National Health Association, and Mental Health America are groups working to raise awareness of mental health in ethnic and minority communities. Improving Lives Counseling Services’ team of therapists and counselors offer therapy from ten locations and spanning seven counties.

There are contextual differences among beliefs about mental health and mental illness. Many believe prayer and religious study alone can heal mental illness. Others attempt to merge secular and faith-based approaches to treating the disease. For many, a belief in mystical evil and personal sin as a cause of mental illness has made using psychotherapy and counseling services outside of a religious order forbidden. This belief, once strictly held by humans through the early 1900s, has made a resurgence in teens, millennials, and young adults. A 2007 report by Matthew S. Stanford, PH. D, of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Baylor University found: “While a majority of the mentally ill participants were accepted by the church, approximately 30% reported a negative interaction. Negative interactions included abandonment by the church, equating mental illness with the work of demons, and suggesting that the mental disorder was the result of personal sin. Analysis of the data by gender found that women were significantly more likely than men to have their mental illness dismissed by the church and/or told NOT to take psychiatric medication.”

Despite a concentration on mental illness and mental health – specifically depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders – culture, ethnicity, dogma, and stigma are on an extended list of problems minority and religious communities face in seeking and securing mental health care. In 2016, Channel 9 in Oklahoma City found although the Affordable Care Act required insurance carriers to provide mental health care, difficulty in finding local care providers, high co-pays and deductibles, failure to qualify for Medicaid, and the underemployed’ s inability to afford healthcare remained a problem. Since 1990, Oklahoma has seen its ranking fall from No. 32 to No. 46 on Mental Health in America’s state ranking in 2016.

Over the years, Black History Month has become more than 28 days of recognition of minority and African-American accomplishments. Physical and mental health disparities, as well as reported bias in certain health care communities, are being addressed. As our senior population grows and baby boomers live longer and more active lives, mental health struggles must be brought to the forefront of the health care industry.

Understanding the need for progress, Improving Lives Counseling Services promotes mental health care as a critical part of a wellness program. Our counselors and therapists treat children, adolescents, teens, adults, and seniors in individual, couples, family, group, and video sessions. We accept most insurance plans, SoonerCare, Medicare, and offer reasonable self-pay arrangements. Regardless of your race, culture, ethnicity, or religious affiliation, we can help. Don’t allow a stigma to prevent you from living the life you were meant to live. Call us to learn more.