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  • Asha M. Creary

National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

In the 21st century, we have seen an overwhelming increase in focus on mental and behavioral health. However, only very recently have we seen a focus on minority mental health and practicing theories that allow space for the narrative of the non-white male population in America.

Concerns of Minorities about Mental Health

Current research has shown that within minority mental health,

African American Males are 20% more likely to state they are experiencing psychological distress but are less likely to seek or complete treatment for mental health.

Arab populations uphold spirituality as a strong factor in their connection to mental health. Those that don’t seek treatment are also more prone to low-educational levels and higher psychological distress.

● Income, Safety, Legal Status, and Language are factors for Hispanics to reach out for mental health services, even though research has shown that the percentage of Mexican Americans suffering psychological disorders is comparable to white Americans. Research has also shown that family involvement is also essential in treating mental health in Hispanic populations.

● Poverty, stigma, and low-educational level are crucial factors that affect minority mental health and influence the likelihood they will seek or complete treatment.

Counseling Theories that address Minority Mental Health

Only recently have therapists been able to form and employ theories that resonate with minorities. Below are a few theories used today:

● Feminist Theory- This theory uses the empowerment of individuals in the face of societal norms and structures. It focuses on gender empowerment and challenging social constructs in Western society.

● Multicultural Theory- This theory, in essence, involves a therapist to make space for the client’s cultural background and differing beliefs. It allows the client and therapist to form an understanding of ethnic background and validates that the variety in social structures and beliefs are a normal part of the client’s reality. An example of this is when a Muslim person believes that supernatural beings such as jinn exist. The therapist allowing space for these beliefs may affect how they diagnose the Muslim client.

● Bronfenbrenner Ecological Model- This theory recognizes that the individual is not a lone entity and what impacts their well-being. In this model, the individual is the central focus, but acknowledges that the microenvironment and macro-environment, such as family, school, work place, government, and policy, play a vital role in addressing the client’s well-being.

Closing the Gap in Minority Mental Health

Though it is clear that mental health has taken an importance in the public rhetoric, there is a long way to go to close the gap in providing mental health treatment for minorities in America.

Closing this gap includes:

● Challenging language barriers

● Diversifying the mental health workforce

● Making treatment affordable

● Making mental health services present and easily available

● Allowing space for religious and cultural values

For mental health to truly confront the concerns facing minority mental health, each of the above factors must be addressed on the professional development and policy development level. Only by equipping the workforce with cultural awareness and closing the gap will we then see drastic improvement in minority mental health.

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