Barriers to mental health care are breaking down — with help from professional resources

Access to behavioral health and stigma around mental health disorders are serious barriers to care for many minority groups. Read on for more information.

Mental health conditions do not discriminate. Anyone can have challenges at any point in their lives. The difference is how these issues are addressed and perceived. These differences are glaringly obvious in African American communities.

How mental health affects Black communities

“We hear often that Black Americans view mental health struggles as a personal weakness,” said Jonathon White, LCSW, a social worker with Norton Behavioral Medicine. “Or they don’t believe mental health struggles even exist.”

The statistics are stark:

  • African Americans are 10% more likely to experience serious psychological distress.
  • Black adult blacks living below the poverty line report severe psychological distress two to three times more often than those living above it.
  • Black adults are more likely to have feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness than white adults.
  • Lack of access to behavioral health resources such as health care, education and economic resources, may contribute to African Americans’ worse mental health outcomes.
  • Black teens are more likely to attempt suicide than white teenagers, and African Americans of all ages are more likely to be victims of violent crime; meaning they have higher incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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Whether you’re looking to discuss depression or anxiety issues, you can depend on the team at Norton Community Medical Associates. With over 36 locations, we’re here to help you reach your goals.

What causes disparities in mental health care?

“There are many factors that get in the way of care for African Americans,” Jonathon said. “Some are deep-seated systemic issues like cultural bias or fear of the medical establishment. It’s important that providers understand these barriers and work to overcome them.”

Barriers to behavioral health care for Black individuals include:

  • Economics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2012, 19% of African Americans did not have health insurance.
  • Physical access. Black communities are often far from hospitals or clinics that provide mental health services.
  • Lack of clinical trials. Barriers such as lack of awareness, economic factors, communication issues and mistrust often lead to underreported racial demographic data.
  • Mistrust. A history of racism in medical settings can result in a serious lack of trust in medical professionals.
  • Lack of providers who are Black. According to the American Psychiatric Association, only 3.7% of its members are African American.

What can be done about access for minorities to health care services?

“From a patient standpoint, you should visit a primary care provider,” Jonathon said. “Your provider will help screen your symptoms and take the first step in creating a plan to ensure you have the best quality of life.” 

Norton Behavioral Medicine offers outpatient mental health care in Kentucky and Indiana that is integrated with the ongoing care provided by your Norton Healthcare primary care provider or specialist. Working with you and your primary provider, Norton Behavioral Medicine therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, addiction medicine specialists and licensed clinical social workers are on your care team. Talk to your Norton Healthcare primary care provider about this service.

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