What is Minority Mental Health Month?

July is Minority Mental Health Month, designated in 2008 by the House of Representatives, in order to raise public awareness for mental health issues facing minority populations and promote health equity. It is also known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, named for Bebe Moore Campbell, “an author, advocate, co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles, and national spokesperson…who advocated for mental health education and support among individuals of diverse communities.”

It is important to note that anyone, regardless of ethnic group, can be affected with a mental health illness. In the year 2050, it is projected that minorities will be half of the population in the United States. Research has shown that interaction with a primary physician and knowledge about mental health increases the chances of detecting a mental illness and reduces health disparities. This post discusses some common mental health conditions that affect ethnic minority populations, their risk factors, and ways to seek mental health treatment.

African Americans

Mental health illnesses in the African American community are on the rise. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Suicide death rates African American men face was more than four times greater than African American women in 2014. Bipolar disorder is not more common for African Americans, however, they are less likely to be diagnosed and treated (more information below). This disease can cause life-threatening results if left untreated, and it is important to seek a mental health professional immediately for a proper diagnosis. Other Common Mental Health Illnesses in African Americans include Major Depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)Suicide, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder can cause severe mood swings, mania, and depression. An individual may feel periods of sadness, may feel overly happy, hopelessness, and sluggish. It is important to recognize the signs of this disease and seek treatment immediately. If not diagnosed by a health professional, bipolar disorder can have serious consequences. Please do not hesitate to seek help because you should not have to deal with this alone.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder consist of extreme shifts in behavior, mood, and physical symptoms including the following:

  • Easily irritated
  • Sleep issues: needing little sleep to difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Poor judgment
  • Denial that something is wrong
  • Inflated sense of one’s abilities
  • Increased sex drive
  • Paranoia, nervousness, and/or worry
  • Substance Abuse
  • Shifts in mood from extreme happiness to pervasive sadness, worthlessness, or guilt
  • Loss of interest in and withdrawal from usual activities
  • Problems with thinking and concentration
  • Extreme fluctuations in energy (going from excessive or restless to very low)
  • Risk-taking
  • Thoughts of death and/or suicide
  • Chronic pain or physical problems that don’t respond to treatment
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Aggression

Why African Americans Are Often Undiagnosed

NAMI outlines some of the reasons for not seeking or receiving mental health care as the following:

  • Mistrust in health professionals due to prejudice and discrimination in the healthcare system. This mistrust can be partially attributed to the Tuskegee Syphilis study that occurred in the United States. The study put African American men in danger and some had members of their family infected with the disease due to the withholding of knowledge and treatment from the people running the study.
  • Cultural barriers between physicians and patients.
  • Reliance on family and religious beliefs
  •  Unwillingness to talk about a mental health issue to health professionals; more focused on physical well-being.
  •  Socioeconomic factors
  •  Misunderstanding and stigma about mental illness.

American Indians and Alaskan Natives

There has been an increase in Native American suicide rates in youth and young adults. According to the CDC, in 2014, suicide was the second leading cause of death for American Indians and Alaskan Natives between the ages of 10 and 34. Some of the reasons for the high suicide risk in this population are mental health disorders, substance abuse, intergenerational trauma, and community-wide issues. This population is also at a high risk of PTSD and alcohol abuse.

Information on Suicide

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. According to Mental Health America, the risk is highest in adults who are between the ages of 45 and 64. If someone has previously attempted suicide before, their chances become higher to attempt again. The two most common disorders associated with suicide attempts are depression and bipolar disorder.

Suicide prevention is the best way for individuals to seek help. Many hospitals and behavioral health centers across the United States have call centers that can directly send you to a healthcare professional. If you or someone you know needs medical help right away, please dial 911 immediately.

Symptoms of an Individual with Suicidal Thoughts

MHA defines the symptoms of suicide as follows:

  • Suicide threats such as, “You’d be better off without me.” or “Maybe I won’t be around.”
  • Hopelessness and helplessness
  • Past suicide attempts
  • Recklessness or risk-taking
  • Unusual behavior/changes in personality
  • Depression
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Lack of interest in the future

Hispanic Americans

According to Mental Health America, in the United States, there are 17.8% of the U.S population who are Hispanic Americans. According to Mental Health America, 15% percent of Hispanics have suffered from a mental health illness within the past year. A study has found that Hispanics are more likely to self-monitor themselves or seek guidance from a peer if they feel they have a mental illness.

Importance of Mental Health

In the United States, mental health has been a big topic in the United States. Many people regardless of age, gender, social status, or racial background are dealing with mental health illnesses. It is important to remember that our mental health is just as important as our physical health. If you or a loved one, is in a mental health crisis please seek medical help right away.

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