July is national minority mental health awareness month, spotlighting the unique struggles in health care settings for communities for color in the United States.
Dr. Trenton James is a psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente in Seattle. He said Black people are less likely to receive treatment for mental illness.
“Black Americans don’t experience mental illness more than the general population,” said James. “Yet Black adults are one of the highest groups suffering disability among those untreated for mental illness.”
James said poverty is one major barrier to treatment. About 27% of Black Americans live below the poverty line, compared with 10% of white Americans.
James said there also is a stigma around seeking treatment, although he noted that people became more open to talking about mental health during the pandemic.
James said Black patients often receive different, less effective treatment than their white counterparts.
“Black Americans are less likely to be offered evidenced-based medication treatment or psychotherapy,” said James, “or even to receive guideline-consistent care.”
James said it is important to be specific when considering how to overcome barriers to mental health treatment in certain communities.
“Marginalized communities really need tailor-made solutions,” said James, “because even though we can offer services and resources that are equal across the board, they may not necessarily meet the needs of every individual group within that community.”