Mental Health Services and Cutural Competence
Mental Health America Calls for Action to End
Mental Health Disparities
Culturally Competent Services Can Remove Barriers
ALEXANDRIA, Va. (April 15,2009)— In recognition of National Minority Health Month, Mental Health America is calling for action to end the disparities that exist for people of color in need of mental health care and treatment.
The month of April was designated as National Minority Health Month in response to Healthy People 2010, the Surgeon General’s 10-year health objectives for the nation issued in 2000, which include a focus on the elimination of health disparities among different segments of the population.
Even more than other areas of health and medicine, the mental health field is plagued by disparities in the availability of and access to its services. Financial barriers often prevent too many Americans from receiving mental health care, regardless of whether or not they have insurance.
Nearly a decade ago, then-U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher described the striking disparities in mental health care for racial and ethnic minorities.
“We have allowed stigma and a now unwarranted sense of hopelessness about the opportunities for recovery from mental illness to erect these barriers. It is time to take them down,” he said in 2001.
“Communities of color continue to have less access to mental health services than White Americans and they are even less likely to receive needed services and receive poorer quality care when they receive it,” said David L. Shern, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mental Health America. “We have to take action to permanently remove barriers and ensure all Americans have access to mental health care.”
Overall, only one-third of Americans with a mental illness or a mental health problem get care. Yet, the percentage of African Americans receiving needed care is only half that of non-Hispanic whites. Nearly one out of two Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders have difficulty accessing mental health treatment because they do not speak English or cannot find services that meet their language needs. One national study found that only 24% of Hispanics with depression and anxiety received appropriate care, compared to 34% of whites. Twenty-four percent of Native Americans lack health insurance, compared with 16 percent of the U.S. population.