July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The American Counseling Association writes: Minority Mental Health Month is a nationwide effort developed by Mental Health America to “shed light on the multitude of mental health experiences within Black, Indigenous, People of Color and others that face disproportionate inequities due to systemic barriers and historical adversity.” Marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised people have unique concerns, trauma, stress, obstacles, and challenges because of historical experiences, cultural differences, and social disparities.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, Minority communities are less likely to receive treatment for mental health concerns and have less access to mental health services. In 2017, 11% of minority young adults had serious thoughts of suicide. In that same year, 8 % of minority young adults had a serious mental illness
Research shows that our friends and neighbors of color or who are from the LGBTQI community are less likely to access mental health care due to stigma and barriers caused by implicit bias or systemic racism. How can you help? First raise awareness of the issue. Second, be proactive and seek to understand your neighbors and fellow community members who you perceive as different from you. Supportive relationships is the number one way to overcome any kind of a mental health issue.
Be a friend. Seek to understand your neighbors. Focus on being nonjudgmental, compassionate and understanding. Ask or say “Is everything okay? I've noticed that you haven't been acting like yourself lately. Is something going on? Let’s talk to someone about it.” Here are some additional questions you can ask when you want to be an emotional support.
- How can I best support you right now?
- Can I help you find mental health services?
- Can I help you make an appointment?
- Can I help you until you’re feeling better?
- Would you like me to go with you to a support group?
- Do you need a ride to any of your appointments?
Remember you have the power to be the solution and a healing force in the life of another. This month, let's raise awareness, reach out and support our neighbors no matter who they are, so that they have the encouragement and love needed to thrive.
-Jerry Strausbaugh, EdD, LPCCS, Executive Director