DBSA Supports Mental Health Equity

Every person has the right to access quality healthcare regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC) have more barriers to accessing comprehensive mental health services due to:

  • Stigma within BIPOC communities;
  • High insurance costs;
  • Distrust of the healthcare system;
  • Underrepresentation of BIPOC providers;
  • Implicit bias;
  • And outright racism.

The growing need for culturally competent services and resources is compounded by the ongoing pandemic, social and economic disparities affecting BIPOC communities, a shortage of mental health professionals, and a decrease in social services funding. DBSA has partnered with local organizations to foster communities of support for people living with mood disorders, create culturally competent educational resources to reduce stigma in communities of color, and increase awareness about peer support.

DBSA provides the following programs and resources in response to mental health disparities:

How to Get More Involved in Advocacy

This year, let’s take your advocacy to the next level. You have been educating yourself on policy issues that affect people living with mood disorders by reading this newsletter. Maybe you have even responded to a DBSA action alert. Through our Advocacy Center, you can become even more informed about issues that affect the health and well-being of people living with mental health conditions. Read more about DBSA’s policy positions here.

The next level involves putting not only your name, but also your face, to a policy issue. You can provide written or oral testimony at government hearings and meetings. By sharing your story with decision makers, you help change public opinion and ensure the voices of people living with mental health conditions are heard and considered in government. DBSA will help you develop your story and what you want to say.

You can also participate in DBSA peer councils, which amplify the peer voice and provide feedback to decision makers about improving treatment options for people living with mood disorders. Peer councils empower people living with mental health conditions to educate decision makers on the priorities and challenges peers face through direct interaction.
We recruit for both of these efforts from the engaged audience that reads this newsletter and responds to our action alerts. Please sign up and be on the lookout for emails about those opportunities.

Self-Advocacy Tips: Intersectionality and BIPOC Community

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and reflect on the Black American experience and, specifically, the topic of Black mental health and wellness that can help inform the larger Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) community.

According to Mental Health America (MHA), more than 16 percent of Black Americans in the past year have reported experiencing a mental health condition. While the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) helped uninsured individuals receive health care coverage, 11.5 percent of Black Americans, compared to 7.5% of white Americans, remained without insurance, leaving 50.1 percent of Black American adults living with serious mental health symptoms untreated.

Systemic and community factors lead to unresolved treatment issues. An American Psychological Association survey points to the lack of representation among healthcare providers. Eighty-six percent of psychologists are white in contrast to 4 percent Black psychologists. This lack of Black psychologists contributes to the community’s mistrust that mental health practitioners are not sensitive to specific cultural issues.

In “21 Mental Health Resources for BIPOC”, Chelsea Candelario identifies societal issues of “racism, economic disparities, and microaggression” as examples that prevent a person of color from connecting with someone who has not had these historical experiences.

Candelario offers an extensive list of tips and mental health resources for BIPOC communities to navigate what can be overwhelming hurdles. For example, in a search for therapists, Candelario advises to:

  1. Create a list of the type of support you are seeking.
  2. Search through BIPOC-specific directories.
  3. Put on your interviewing hat to assess your comfort and the provider’s experience in working with BIPOC clients.
  4. Be prepared for trial and error.
  5. If therapy is expensive, there are alternative mental health resources to try.

Resources include DBSA’s free online support groups for the Black community. Robert Dabney, Jr., Manager of DBSA’s Peer Apprentice Program, has a lived experience with major depressive disorder and initially experienced shame, stigma, and ostracization within the Black community. Robert’s journey, which includes openly speaking about his experience, has led to many new and supportive relationships, hobbies, and interests. He is “learning to view life through a lens of hope, growth, and community.” Robert reminds us that Black Americans are not alone within the BIPOC community and encourages others to discover the many options available for recovery and healing.

Briefly Noted

  • This past month in Congress, three separate hearings were held on mental health. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing on mental health and substance use disorders. Additionally, the House Committee on Ways and Means held a hearing on America’s mental health crisis. In both hearings, members of Congress were engaged in discussions on the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and substance use, the need for Mental Health First Aid, and mental health parity, among other important topics. For summaries of the Senate HELP hearing, click here, and for the House Ways and Means hearing, click here.
  • The Senate Finance Committee held the second of a series Youth Mental Health hearings. The Committee held its first hearing (summary) on Youth Mental Health this week, hosting U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Dr. Murthy who spoke about his recent public health advisory “Protecting Youth Mental Health” and emphasized access to high quality, affordable health care and prevention.
  • • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) released resources to help mental health providers establish integrated programs and build a robust mental health continuum of care. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the pre-pandemic rising suicide rates, the opioid crisis, and numerous challenges in meeting demands for mental health services across the country, the 2021 Compendium of Ready to Respond: Mental Health Beyond Crisis and COVID-19 comes at a critical time. With the impact of COVID-19 still front and center and the planning for a system involving a 988-crisis response, there is much work ahead. Read the compendium.

Your Voice Can Make a Difference

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