July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Written by Anjali Mehta
An Overview of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Each year in the month of July, National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is observed to help spread awareness of the adversities that racial and ethnic minorities in the United States face specifically. Throughout the duration of the month, the HHS Office of Minority Health supports these groups by providing them with support and tools to de-stigmatize the concept of mental health. Additionally, they strive to spread more understanding nationally by urging state leaders to educate their communities about the struggles these minority groups endure.
How COVID-19 Impacted the Mental Health of Racial & Ethnic Minority Groups
The COVID-19 pandemic was a very overwhelming time for the majority of people. But, it is critical to take into account how societies of color were affected uniquely. During this period in particular, racial and ethnic minorities experienced mental health illnesses at similar rates to white Americans. However, individuals of color have reported feeling “looked down upon” or “like a burden” to the rest of their community. Minorities tend to have a more challenging time asking for help or reaching out to those around them when faced with an issue concerning mental health because of this. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified these struggles for racial and ethnic minorities as they were impacted in different ways in comparison to others.
How Racial & Ethnic Minority Groups Might Show Symptoms of Mental Illnesses
People with mental illnesses can express a variety of symptoms. While every person is different and expresses them in distinct ways, the majority of people struggling with mental illnesses communicate the following symptoms: inability to concentrate, feeling tired frequently, having trouble falling asleep at night, etc. In addition to the symptoms that most individuals display when dealing with a mental illness, racial and ethnic minorities deal with other symptoms specific to them as well. Minority groups are more likely to distance themselves from loved ones and undergo excessive mood swings when dealing with mental health problems. People of color can also encounter physical symptoms such as bodily aches/pains.
How Racial & Ethnic Minority Groups Are Easily Misdiagnosed:
Racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be misdiagnosed with mental illnesses. Men of color have been misdiagnosed and overdiagnosed with Schizophrenia, which is a mental health disorder that makes people interpret reality differently, because health care professionals have deciphered their emotions as psychotic. Teenagers in minority groups are very likely to show signs of Bulimia, having a compulsive idea of wanting to lose weight, but are less likely to get diagnosed, even if their symptoms are identical to those of white teenagers. Mothers within these racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression but are less likely to receive health care support.
What We Can Do to Help
These ideas are undeniably unfair; racial and ethnic minorities should not have to endure the struggles placed upon them. There are numerous ways that you can help. First, try to be understanding about what others are experiencing that you may not be. Having this kind of open perspective is the first step in helping to make a difference. It is a good idea to share information you have learned (from reliable sources) about minority mental health with your peers, including this article! Sharing the knowledge is a great way to help spread awareness and help de-stigmatize mental health among these groups. If possible, it is also encouraged to reach out to officials near you to spread awareness to even larger groups of people. If you know of other mental health organizations, encourage them to include individuals from minorities on the staff/board. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to help spread awareness, so definitely try to.