According to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States are less likely to have access to and utilize mental health services and are more likely to receive poor quality mental health care. Poor mental health outcomes lead to poor birth outcomes and cyclically toxic situations that pass from parents to children.
Throughout National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in July, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health engages with partners from all levels – federal, state and local – to inform their communities of the need to improve access to mental healthcare and treatment, while striving to eliminate barriers such as the negativity that surrounds mental health conditions.
Good mental health is a critical component of family health. The emotional, psychological and social well-being of both parents and children ensures families are safe and healthy. Depression impacts a parent’s ability to positively engage and bond with their child. Infant and early childhood mental health impacts a child’s development and social skills. Poor adolescent mental health can lead to risky behaviors and set the stage for adult mental health issues. Unresolved mental health issues are associated with drug abuse and addiction.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 70 percent of African American adolescents who displayed episodes of major depression did not receive treatment for their condition.
Life course stressors are a main socioeconomic factor that impact infant mortality. According to an assessment done on minority communities by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), there are high rates of crime, abuse and violence surrounding these families. When people experience these stressors, they face toxic stress, substance use/abuse, depression and other difficult situations.
Poverty level also affects mental health status, and African Americans living below the federal poverty level are three times more likely to report psychological distress than those living in an income bracket double the federal poverty level.
Despite a national rise in health equity, disparities in mental health care still persevere, especially in minority communities. Our programs are changing the dynamic:
- The Magnolia Project is bringing “Yoga in the Streets” to urban core neighborhoods and is continuing to expand.
- Azalea Project Healthy Start counsels substance-using pregnant women and refers them to treatment.
- Fatherhood PRIDE counsels dads who are having a rough time with child support, their kid’s mom, employment and more.
Every day, we are continuing to do much more in our programs to improve minority mental health.