An overwhelming percentage of the population classifies as a minority in some way or another, whether it’s race, sexual orientation, or the religion they choose to believe in. It’s important to understand that being part of a minority makes you special; not different. Everybody has struggles they have to face, and being part of a minority comes with its own unique set of them, which is why celebrating Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is so important.
What racial backgrounds make up a minority class? Well, according to the National Library of Medicine, they define minorities as “people who identify as African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanic Americans. The term ‘minority’ is used to signify the groups’ limited political power and social resources, as well as their unequal access to opportunities, social rewards, and social status. The term is not meant to connote inferiority or to indicate small demographic size.” With this in mind, it goes without saying that when you are part of a minority group, you are more likely to have some kind of struggle to try to access different types of health services. Mental health is one of the most prevalent examples. One of the things that we all have to understand as a community is that not everyone has access to the same resources that others might, and as a whole, we have to work towards equality, where everybody will have the same access to solutions to improve their mental health as everyone else.
Last month we celebrated National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month — a time when we aimed to raise awareness about the struggles that these minorities face when dealing with their mental health. The world has made many advances regarding health issues, and the fact that some people are left behind is something that we have to improve. At the end of the day, we are all human, and we should all have the same opportunities. Experts at Healthline echo this point by reporting that, “Research has documented disproportionate rates of mental illness and underrepresentation for those who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), along with challenges of uniformity in diagnostics.”
But why do minorities especially suffer from poor mental health? In addition to the lack of access to services designed to help, mental health struggles are unfortunately stigmatized in communities of color. The professionals at McLean Hospital shared, “The stigma of mental health isn’t new to the Black community. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reportedly had severe depression during periods of his life and refused psychiatric treatment, even when urged to seek care by his staff. Unfortunately, that scenario continues to be common today, with African Americans not seeking mental health care because of stigma.” Luckily, over the last couple of years especially, people have decided to stand out and bring awareness to the topic, but we still have a long way to go.
If you are not ready to consider talk therapy, there are other indirect measures to improve your mental health as well. For instance, exercise has long-since been linked to better mental health, and this is equally true for patients of color. Sorogi Health, a Diabetes management organization with a focus on effective healthcare for minority groups, stated, “Diet and exercise are critical components of a successful strategy to prevent or manage Diabetes, control hypertension, and have good mental health…. For example, movement and exercise help reduce anxiety, depression, and negative mood while also helping cognitive function. Endorphins that help us feel better also aid in memory and thinking skills.”
At the end of the day, it’s all about finding support in the way that makes you feel most comfortable and getting the word out there to reduce the stigma of mental health struggles impacting minority groups in our country. To bring awareness to mental health struggles, we want you to speak out, share your experiences, and let others know they are not alone.