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Prioritizing Minority Mental Health

Mental health matters! Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, act, handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is just as important as physical health throughout our lives.


Mental health issues are common – more than 1 in 5 US adults live with a mental illness. Mental health issues are treatable and often preventable, but not everyone has access to the resources they need. People in some racial and ethnic minority groups face more challenges than others getting mental health care.




Obstacles to mental health for racial and ethnic minority groups


Many people from racial and ethnic minority groups have difficulty getting mental health care. This can be due to many different reasons, such as cost or not having adequate health insurance coverage. It may also be challenging to find providers from one’s racial or ethnic group. Stigma or negative ideas about mental health care may also prevent people from seeking services.


Other things in our environment can impact mental health and emotional well-being. For example, experiencing or witnessing racial discrimination or racial violence can cause stress and racial trauma. Poverty (or having low income) may limit access to mental health care. Poverty can also cause stress and may lead to mental health issues.



Working together for mental health equity


Everyone benefits when people from racial and ethnic minority groups can thrive. We all have a role to play in promoting health equity.

Individuals can

  • Learn about mental health.
  • Learn about healthy ways to cope with stress and respond to loss. Engage in these practices, when possible.
  • Share information on mental health, healthy coping skills, and resources with family, friends, neighbors, and others in your community.
  • Talk about mental health and use non-stigmatizing language.
  • Learn about implicit bias. Implicit biases are unintentional attitudes, behaviors, and actions that are in favor of or against one person or group.
  • Learn about microaggressions. Microaggressions are everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults. They communicate negative messages to people because of their membership in a marginalized group. Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional.
  • Make ongoing efforts to avoid implicit bias, microaggressions, and other forms of discrimination.
  • If you need more support:
  • Access free and confidential resources including the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
  • Get treatment from a mental health care provider.



Public health organizations can

  • Ensure mental health programming incorporates perspectives, ideas, and decision-making from people from racial and ethnic minority groups at all stages of programming – from planning to evaluation.
  • Consider the data on mental health, as well as historical, social, and cultural factors impacting racial and ethnic minority groups, when developing organizational priorities and programs.
  • Prioritize action on and/or account for structural and social determinants of health when designing mental health programs.
  • Partner with other organizations to fill gaps in expertise and representation from racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • Monitor and evaluate mental health programs for progress towards health equity and elimination of racial disparities.
  • Incorporate and develop best practices for reducing racism in programs and policies to improve mental health equity.



Health educators and communicators can

  • Ensure mental health educational materials and communication activities are culturally and linguistically appropriate, inclusive, and respectful. Follow the health equity principles for communication, such as using plain language.
  • Take active steps to increase the reach of mental health information to racial and ethnic minority groups. This should include using culturally responsive communication outlets.
  • Verify and promote free and low-cost mental health resources through diverse channels.



Healthcare systems can

  • Screen patients for depression and other mental health conditions and refer patients to accessible mental health care services.
  • Make mental health educational materials available to all patients during their appointments, via patient portals, and in waiting rooms.
  • Make efforts to recruit mental healthcare providers that reflect the race and ethnicity of the populations served.
  • Provide cultural humility training to mental healthcare providers.
  • Ensure mental healthcare services are culturally and linguistically appropriate.



States and communities can

  • Expand community-based mental health care, including culturally responsive mental health services at low or no cost for youth and adults.
  • Evaluate policies for their differential impact on social determinants of health. When needed, modify these policies or create new policies that ensure equitable access to resources for all people.
  • Evaluate policies for their potential to reinforce mental health stigma and revise or remove stigmatizing policies.
  • Encourage community and faith-based leaders to discuss mental health issues to help reduce stigma.
  • Make efforts to ensure decision-makers reflect the races and ethnicities of the populations they serve.

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