National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Every July, National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is observed in the United States. This month aims to bring awareness to the unique mental health challenges and needs of racial and ethnic minority communities. A person’s mental health can influence how a person feels, thinks, acts, and navigates life’s everyday challenges. Mental health can include emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Still, many factors can impact each of these.1 What are the unique mental health challenges that minority communities face and why is it important to explore and discuss these topics? 

One common challenge that can negatively impact the mental health of minorities is racial discrimination in social contextual factors such as employment, housing, banking, and everyday domains of life.1 A national survey by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 69% of adults reported experiencing at least one experience of discrimination, and 61% reported experiencing everyday discrimination.1 These experiences have been associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other defined psychiatric disorders in African American, Asian American, Latinx, and Caribbean-American populations.1 Once a member of a minority community acquires a mental disorder, they tend to experience a more severe and persistent disorder. African Americans and Latinx members acquire the most debilitating form of  mental disorder compared to any other racial or ethnic group.1 Also, social stigmas from outside and within a minority community can negatively affect an individual’s mental health while acting as a serious barrier to accessing and staying in mental health treatment.2 One such mental health disorder that is concerning in minority communities is eating disorders. 

Despite the perception that eating disorders only affect young white middle-class women, eating disorders are prevalent in ethnic minority communities.3 Through racial discrimination, emotional eating, and body image issues can develop as a response to depression, anxiety, anger, loneliness, or other mental disorders in African Americans and minorities.4 Research has found that Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is the most prevalent eating disorder among African Americans.3 BED has been associated with higher feelings of depression, body image issues, and other psychological comorbidities. The acquisition of an eating disorder by members of a minority community can worsen depression, anxiety, body image concerns, and the eating disorder itself.3 The compounding of harmful symptomology makes it increasingly difficult to access the proper care, but many in minority communities do not know where to start looking for potential resources.  

Raising awareness for the mental health of minority communities is important, but having the resources to face mental health concerns is just as important. If you, a friend, or a loved one is experiencing mental health concerns, there are resources for help.  

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: Mental Health Resources for Underrepresented Communities 

National Eating Disorder Association Resources 

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline:  

  • Call 1-800-950-6264 or text 62640  
  • Monday-Friday, 10:00 am – 10:00 pm ET  

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration Hotline 

  • 1-800-662-HELP (4357) 

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline 

  • 988 

References 

1.Williams, D. R. (2018). Stress and the mental health of populations of color: Advancing our understanding of race-related stressors. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 59(4), 466–485. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022146518814251  

2.Gary, F. A. (2005). Stigma: Barrier to mental health care among ethnic minorities. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 26(10), 979–999. https://doi.org/10.1080/01612840500280638 

3.Rodgers, R. F., Berry, R., & Franko, D. L. (2018). Eating disorders in ethnic minorities: An update. Current Psychiatry Reports, 20(10). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-018-0938-3 

4.Hampton-Anderson, J. N., & Craighead, L. W. (2020). Psychosociocultural contributors to maladaptive eating behaviors in African American youth: Recommendations and future directions. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 15(6), 621–633. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827620936951 

By Julian Robles

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