Mental health has its own unique characteristics, obstacles and challenges for every single one of us. For July we take a deeper look at Minority Mental Health Month and the social influences such as culture and society that shape how mental health is addressed among minorities.
Not a single culture or society reacts or views mental health in the same way. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention shared Bree Figueroa’s story about her experiences with mental health as a minority. She told AFSP, “Minority populations need to be more involved with mental health because it is a silent killer in our communities.” The factors contributing to this are not only embedded in society, but extend beyond the doors of the communities.
According to Young Minds Advocacy, “Even after controlling societal factors such as discrimination, violence and poverty–ethnic minority communities still have a greater unmet mental health need than Caucasians.”
The reality is that there are cultural norms in every community which shape stigmas around mental health. Katherine Kam, producer of Exploring Asian American Youth and Mental Health, researched and documented many case studies of mental health and the stigma around it in the Asian American communities. In her article, Asian Americans Tackle Mental Health Stigma wrote, “[For] many Asian Americans, depression and other mental illnesses are culturally taboo subjects, laden with shame, stigma and secrecy...statistics show that Asian Americans are among the least likely of all racial groups to seek mental health services.” The statistics surrounding the matter support this statement. Asian American compared to caucasians are less likely to talk about mental health as reported by Kam --
- A friend or relative (12 percent vs. 25 percent)
- A mental health professional (4 percent vs. 26 percent)
- A physician (2 percent vs. 13 percent)
There are many other cultures besides Asian Americans who have a stigma about mental health as well.
The African American community also instills a stigma within children at a very young age. Bree Figueroa spoke about her cultural experience. “At a young age minorities are taught to believe that we should never go to a therapist or counselor to talk about or sort out our problems. We are taught to be strong and just deal with it, the big “it” being whatever life has systematically thrown your way.” Children learning to hide mental illnesses and obstacles is possibly one of the top keys holding back minority groups.
These are just a few of the many cases that explain how environment and upbringing can develop the stigma about mental health. This is what makes people afraid to seek help from therapists or tell their family members about their personal struggles. Mental health illnesses affect everyone no matter the race, where you are from, your age or gender.
Mental health is different for everyone and the illnesses do not discriminate.