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Living Healthy

Advancing and Supporting Mental Health Equity

July 23, 2021
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It offers a chance to examine the historical and current barriers that people from diverse backgrounds experience in achieving mental well-being.

Health equity is a key driver for mental and physical well-being. Today, people of color and other marginalized people continue to experience disproportionate barriers to quality and culturally competent mental health support. Organizations looking to provide high-quality care to diverse communities must address these obstacles.

Challenges for people of color

People of color—including Black, Hispanic/Latino, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native people—experience a greater lack of timely and accurate mental health diagnosis and quality care, including care from other people of color.*

Some of these gaps in mental health treatment include:

Recognizing these disparities is the first step in transforming the mental healthcare systems to provide better, more equitable mental health care for all people.

Culturally competent care

Another important aspect of health equity for marginalized people is the diversity and cultural competency of healthcare professionals. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) defines culturally competent care as "the delivery of care within the context of appropriate physician knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of cultural distinctions leading to optimal health outcomes.”

Increasing diversity among healthcare professionals can help reduce biases and ensure that care is delivered in a respectful manner demonstrating cultural humility. Other practices include having language resources like multilingual doctors or interpreters for non-English speakers. The percentage of Americans who speak a primary language other than English continues to grow; therefor, offering services tailored to their language preferences can improve health outcomes.

Continuing Medical Education programs, such as MyDiversePatients, educate doctors about bias and cultures different from their own. These programs help create stronger and more trustworthy relationships between doctors and patients.

How to get involved

Everyone can take steps to raise awareness and acceptance about mental health to improve equity, including:

Mental health is health, and we must make our mental health a priority to achieve whole health. Supporting mental health equity for marginalized people can help all people and their communities thrive.
*BCBS Health Index