Mental Health Care Disparities: Consequences of Ineffectiveness and Lack of Access for Minorities
Ebony Marinnie RN
Mental Health Care Disparities: Consequences of ineffectiveness and lack of access for minorities
For ages mental illness has been seen as the ultimate curse. The mentally ill were seen as possessed, hidden from society, and never talked about. In America, it is estimated that 26.2 percent of people ages 18 and older suffer from a diagnosed mental disorder in a given year (Kessler,Chiu, Walters, & Demler, 2005). The aforementioned statistics reflect those that have sought or been forced into treatment. There are many left uncounted due to lack ...view middle of the document...
Social security and disability benefits are being paid to mental illness suffers at increasing rates. In 1999, 27 percent of adults receiving Social Security Disability Insurance had a primary psychiatric impairment according to Drake et al., 2009. This poses a tremendous financial burden on the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Utilization of benefits could be decreased if those suffering from mental illness had better access and quality of care. This is especially so for minority populations.
A disparity in access and quality of mental healthcare for minority groups in America is an unfortunate truth. According to the Surgeon General’s supplemental report (2001), “Historical adversity, such as slavery, race-based exclusion from health, education, social, and economic resources results in the socioeconomic inequalities experienced by African Americans.” “Poor mental health is more common among those who are impoverished than among those who are more affluent”(p.57). Depression can be linked to poverty, financial stress, hopelessness, and unemployment. Mental health services may be underutilized by Blacks for several reasons. The antitrust of White American medicine plays a part. In 1932, White doctors intentionally infected Black impoverished men with syphilis in the Tuskegee Experiment. This is just one example of historical events that have shaped some of the reluctance to seek help for mental health. Abuses perpetrated on minority groups throughout history have had a heavy affect upon many African American’s ability to trust that the mental health system as well as the entire health system. Minorities aren’t certain that they will be treated with the same respect and competence as White Americans. Social stigma also has a role in the avoidance of dealing with mental health in the Black community. From experience, Black men take on this stigma especially more than Black women. Mental illness is often viewed with an unpleasant attitude, thus a person my shy away from seeking treatment. This feeling can be traced to a residual effect of slavery and the helplessness felt by the Black man. According to Atdjian and Vega (2005) those who access treatment have high rates of early dropout and missed appointments. This may be a result of the individual feeling like “they don’t understand me” and how can the practitioner that has not experienced the same be able to relate. Also, many African Americans turn to religion when faced with difficult times and emotions, relying on what is seen as a divine source of support and comfort. Some Black Americans are taught to lean on family in times of emotional upheaval. This is where culturally diverse mental healthcare professionals would be beneficial.
Along with patient motivation factors such as stigma and antitrust, minorities are typically less likely to have health insurance compared to Whites. In the September 2009 issue of The Baltimore Sun, Director of Health at the Joint...