Mental Health Disparities in Minority Military & Veteran Populations
As we continue to bring more awareness, reduce stigmas and close the gap on minority mental health. It is important to shed light on our minority Veteran population more specifically. There are many military members that go off and fight for this country and have to endure trauma, fear, anxiety and uncertainty in the process. Those same members come home and have to deal with extreme secondary trauma from the media and other outlets that shed light on black and brown bodies being slaughtered throughout the country. We won’t dive into that on a micro level, just making a mental note. Alongside these issues not only are they dealing with cultural stigmas around mental health, they also are dealing with the stigma of seeking help as a Veteran or military member[MOU1] .
There has been a report that projects the Veteran population will drop from 18.6 million in 2016 to 12.9 million in 2040. During this time minority Veterans will increase from 23 to 34 percent[MOU2] . There was another study conducted with roughly 66,000 veterans and it was found that minority populations reported less satisfaction with their healthcare. Black and Hispanic Veterans has had more negative experiences in obtaining quality healthcare than whites. Blacks reported fewer communication issues than white Veterans but Hispanic Veterans have had fewer positive experiences with the office staff on helpfulness and courtesy than white Veterans. Hispanic Veterans also expressed less comprehensiveness of care around being asked about mental health concerns than white Veterans.
18.9% of female Veterans are black, 9.5% are Hispanic and 2.2% are Asian. Of the male Veteran population 10.8% are black, 7.1% are Hispanic and 1.6% are Asian. Those who serve a more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression[MOU3] . Blacks and Hispanics Vietnam Veterans had higher rates of PTSD than whites[MOU4] . According to a research article in the National Center for Biotechnology, 43% of Veterans had a diagnosis of Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective Psychosis[MOU5] Disorder NOS while only 19% of whites had the same diagnosis. 21% of black Veterans were diagnosed with Bipolar disorder while 42% of whites received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. 25% of Black Veterans were diagnosed with major depression and 27% of whites were diagnosed with depression. 11% of Blacks were diagnosed with PTSD and 13% of whites were diagnosed with PTSD.
PTSD is most likely to have occurred before joining the military for most minority and it intensifies based on a person’s experience with racism and sexism within the system, military assignments and secondary trauma as it relates. We have had numerous conversations with Veterans who have expressed witnessing a member lose their life in combat, guilt behind their inability to help/save everyone on their platoon and the intrusive thoughts of not returning home.
So now that we know how big of a problem the access to quality mental healthcare, access to competent care and lack of safe spaces for these minority populations within the military system and those that have retired, what do we do? There are several things we can do and we will break down each potential cure to the issue below. These are only suggestions and there may be many other ways to help increase the quality of care and reduce the stigma of mental health for minority military members and Veterans.
Remove the stigma around seeking mental healthcare within the military culture and racial cultures
Cultural competence training can benefit therapists that struggle making healthy connections with clients and helps them to identify any potential underlying bias they may have.
Scholarships and funding for minority therapists can help increase an individual’s ability to follow their dreams without having to worry about student loans or working while in school
Increased grants for clinicians of color can help clinicians open up more private practice locations that specialize in Veteran related issues.
Providing access to more private and safe clinical spaces can be done through the recruitment of minority owned private practice clinicians that may not be aware of the need
Allowing Veterans time off to deal with their mental health issues can be a huge steppingstone in veterans getting help. Many Veterans reported not having the appropriate time to grieve of take care of themselves while on the front line of duty
Better reintegration practices can also help to increase servicemen seeking care. There have been numerous articles and conversations with military members and Veterans what have expressed their struggle with reintegration, not knowing where to start and lack of access to quality care once reintegrated into society.