Get to know the FACTS.
July may be National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, but this topic matters year-round.
To connect with minorities, health and wellness brands must understand the healthcare disparities they face. So here are the facts.
Black and brown communities have a history of attaching stigma to mental health. As an agency filled with hispanics, we’ve noticed a pivot in behavior in recent years. So we put it to the test — surveying adults 18-45.
And while we expected a shift in health priorities, we didn’t realize just how much had changed.
We were surprised to see 59% of Hispanic and 51% of Black participants ages 18 to 45 rated mental health as most important to their overall health (Defining Health & Wellness, And The Barriers to Change, THE 3RD EYE 2023).
Table of Contents
Do minorities seek less mental health treatment?
You’ll see both cultural and socioeconomic reasons for this. But it’s changing.
Today, minorities care more about mental health than ever, and our research shows that mental health and emotional wellness are their primary concerns.
While access to quality care is still hard to find, Hispanic and Black Americans are speaking about mental health more than ever. This new generation is redefining our cultural approach to mental wellness.
Ethnic and racial minorities have historically faced treatment discrepancies due to a number of factors.
Black Americans are less likely to receive “guideline-consistent” care, are included less frequently in research, and are less likely to be offered “evidence-based medication therapy or psychotherapy.” (2017)
Our study looking into consumer health and wellness trends revealed that:
38% of Black Americans ages 18-45 named “Untreated mental illness” as the biggest issue affecting their community today. (The 3rd Eye 2023)
With the lack of access to culturally competent care, it’s not surprising that the Black community still seeks less treatment despite recognizing the need for it.
Disparities among Black people result in poor engagement in mental health services, more chronic disease, higher levels of disability, higher rates of inpatient hospitalizations and lower rates of outpatient mental health service use compared to their White counterparts. (2022)
First-generation Hispanics actually face a lower risk of most psychiatric disorders compared to non-Hispanic Whites, but this risk steadily increases with acculturation (AKA the hispanic paradox). Also, older Hispanics and Hispanic youth still face more risk factors. Both are “extremely vulnerable to psychological stresses associated with immigration and acculturation.” (2017).
For instance, more than 16 percent of those who identify as Black or African American were diagnosed with a mental health condition in 2018 alone, and it’s estimated that only one in three of those individuals received mental health care.And in 2018, 56.8% of Hispanic young adults 18-25 and 39.6% of adults 26-49 with serious mental illness did NOT receive treatment. (Mental Health America)
Annual treatment rates among U.S. adults with any mental illness, by demographic group:
51.8% Non-Hispanic White
37.1% Non-Hispanic Black or African-American
43.0% Non-Hispanic mixed/multiracial
35.1% Hispanic or Latino
Disparities faced by minorities come from barriers like “lack of access to healthcare, lower rates of medical coverage, cultural insensitivity of providers, bias and discrimination in the delivery of care, language barriers, and higher levels of stigma.”
Ultimately, the data shows us that minorities don’t seek treatment for mental health for three core reasons:
- Socioeconomic factors
- Cultural stigmas in our own communities
- Culturally incompetent providers
In 2023, there’s hope when it comes to cultural stigma. Our study surveying adults 18-45 showed that both Hispanic and Black adults are starting to really talk about mental health. When it comes to culturally competent providers, we still have a long way to go. (THE 3RD EYE 2023)
See “The Importance of Diversity in Healthcare Leadership“ to learn how we can ensure culturally competent care.
*Note: While our data hones in on these two minority groups, similar treatment discrepancies affect Asian Americans, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ populations.
Identity and Mental Health
Cultural identity has a protective role when it comes to the mental health of minorities. A support system and strong cultural ties can protect against factors that have a negative impact on mental health like racism and discrimination.
Those with a strong connection to their cultural background or racial/ethnic identity are more likely to have positive mental health outcomes.
“[Constructs like] cultural socialization, or emphasizing cultural pride and heritage have been identified as important treatment targets in interventions that were specifically designed with and for African American families” (Anderson et al. 2018)
A February 2023 study that looked at the relationship between social identity and mental disorders in ethnic minorities found that:
“Increased social identification is linked with decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression.”Clinical Psychology Review
Connecting with our culture makes us feel like we’re a part of something, it makes us feel like we belong. It creates a sense of community. This same sense of belonging “promotes resilience against psychological strain.”
This explains the hispanic paradox: while acculturation improves socioeconomic factors, it often increases prevalence of mental disorders within the group as well.
Minorities who experience a dual identity often feel like they’re not enough of one or the other. Finding a community of people who understand this, people who also feel like 200%ers, can greatly impact mental health.
We can help by promoting unity and camaraderie in Black and Brown communities—especially those with biracial members or 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants.
Access and socioeconomic factors
What is the most significant health barrier for minorities?
It’s hard to measure which barrier is most significant, but we certainly know which is the most difficult to overcome: socioeconomic factors like poverty and immigration status.
Poverty makes you more likely to become mentally ill—while simultaneously making it more difficult to access treatment.
Black and African American people living below poverty are twice as likely to report serious psychological distress than those living over 2x the poverty level.
And poverty disproportionately affects Hispanic populations in the U.S. too, with 14.8% of Hispanic families living below the poverty line in 2020 compared to 7.3% for non-Hispanic Whites in 2019. (1,2)
Undocumented immigrants have no access to insurance. And even those who are registered have limited insurance options, especially if they’re still going through the often long and stringent immigration process. Often, that immigration process can negatively affect their mental health.
Immigrants from Hispanic and other communities who face immigration challenges are often at increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, suicide, and related stressors due to their experiences with acculturation or deportation fears.Source: APA
And new immigrants rarely have access to resources to deal with those effects, which only compounds the issue.
Though lack of insurance remains a problem for racial and ethnic minorities in poverty, most minority adults are indeed insured. In our 2023 survey of adults 18-45, THE 3RD EYE found that:
92 % of African Americans were insured
87% of Hispanics were insured
93% of Whites were insuredTHE 3RD EYE 2023
Though a great improvement, simply having insurance isn’t a cure-all—with participants citing cost and time as primary barriers. (THE 3RD EYE 2023)
Private health insurance, however, “typically offers fewer mental health services than Medicaid or public mental health programs.” (NAMI) So having insurance doesn’t mean you have mental health coverage. And access to care does not equate to access to culturally competent care.
Older populations and children are most at-risk. And without insurance, mental healthcare is a virtual impossibility for them.
And though the Affordable Care Act’s implementation has helped close the gap, 11.5 percent of Black and African Americans were still uninsured in 2018 versus only 7.5 percent of non-Hispanic Whites.
Even when minorities overcome the obstacles of poverty and immigration, they are still vulnerable to cultural and language barriers when seeking treatment.
Hispanic patients report communication more often with health providers, and studies have found:
- Bilingual patients are evaluated differently in English as opposed to Spanish
- Hispanics are more frequently undertreated
And African Americans also face a communication barrier. One study found that “physicians engaged in 33% less patient-centered communication with African American patients than with White patients.”
For Black and Hispanic Americans in the US, this stigma is improving significantly, but it’s still very much present. Black consumers 18-45 were most likely to believe poor mental health was a weakness, at 29%.
Despite the improvement, this pervasive generational stigma is hard to escape as a minority seeking mental health treatment.
In Hispanic culture, seeking mental health treatment can be seen as weak or shameful, often causing the family to label one as “crazy.”
And though religion is a protective factor for mental health amongst hispanics, it can also contribute to the stigma. Family members may simply suggest turning to spirituality instead of medicine. Or, they may see mental illness as stemming from sinfulness or lack of faith. (MH National)
The stigmas in Black and Hispanic communities may have different cultural origins, but they sure have similar effects.
Black and African Americans also “hold beliefs related to stigma, psychological openness, and help-seeking, which in turn affects their coping behaviors,” especially Black American men. (MH National)
The stigma improves daily, as we can see in the data points below—however it comes at a cost. In the 18-45 age bracket, we still have to contend with the opinions of our older relatives or those who haven’t broken through the stigma. It helps to lead with compassion, but ensure we’re not avoiding treatment for the sake of pleasing family.
“Mental health is just as important as physical health”
- 70% of Black Participants agreed
- 73% of Hispanic Participants agreed
- 70% of White, non-Hispanic participants agreed
“My mental health is a priority”
- 68% of Black Participants agreed
- 66% of Hispanic Participants agreed
- 60% of White, non-Hispanic participants agreed
How do we combat cultural stigmas against mental health treatment?
Here at The 3rd Eye, our agency is filled with both minorities and mental health aficionados—and we’ve learned that therapy is one of many simple but powerful mental health treatments. Some of us need to work up to therapy—but small steps like adjusting your sleep and exercise routines are great first steps to better mental health.
Some of our leading ladies had a few words of encouragement. Sometimes we just need a reminder that mental health treatment usually pays off in the end.
As mental health brands and marketers, let’s remember the power in amplifying the voices of minority mental health advocates. In an environment where cultural stigma is pushing back, hearing the stories of people who look and sound like us can make all the difference.
Finding culturally competent providers
It’s important for healthcare providers to understand their patients—especially when it comes to mental health.
A lack of cultural understanding by your mental health provider can “contribute to underdiagnosis and/or misdiagnosis of mental illness in people from racially/ethnically diverse populations.” (APA 2017)
Some innovative brands combat this by providing mental health services focused on cultural competence. Alma‘s providers commit to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” and Real, founded by women of color, provides culturally competent care with their team of diverse clinicians. But we still have a long way to go.
Black and Hispanic Americans often feel better with mental health professionals that look like them or have a similar background. This is only natural, since we feel these professionals will better understand our experiences.
How can you offer culturally competent mental health treatment? It’s as simple as hiring diverse clinicians and connecting patients to providers who understand that culture can affect the presentation of symptoms.
As a majority-minority agency, we can help you navigate the cultural differences that come into play when connecting with your minority audience. If your mental health brand is looking to increase its cultural competence, connect with us today.