By nature, health is a personal subject. Health professionals sign confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements, diagnose individual symptoms, and build unique treatment plans. Yet, in some cases, it is valuable to examine the health of a collective rather than an individual. By doing so we can examine trends and point at systematic, continuous differences between various groups. In other words, just as we diagnose illnesses by examining individuals, by looking into an entire group we can detect and treat the illnesses of a society. One example of such an illness is the alarming difference in mental health care between white people and people of other races and ethnicities. At Antidote, we mark BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month by shedding light on the disparities in access to mental health care and the ways to right the wrong.
There is almost no reason to stress the benefits of quality mental health care. Maintaining a good and stable mental state can improve productivity, help improve your sleep and overall physical health, and even increase your life expectancy. In recent years, we have been experiencing a positive shift in the approach toward mental health in society and have been witnessing an increase in the number of people seeking help. But while we have certainly come a long way, most people worldwide still don’t get the treatment they need. When examining different minorities, the picture becomes even grimmer.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in 2020, 46.2% of Americans with mental health concerns received care. When divided into race and ethnicity, we see that a little over half of white people with mental health conditions were treated (51.8%), and that Black (37.1%) and Hispanic (35.1%) Americans received help in significantly lower numbers. Meaning, only about 1-in-3 Latinx and Black Americans received any kind of mental health support throughout the year. And while we don’t have data regarding the number of multiracial Americans who receive mental health treatment each year, we do know that they are the most affected group in the US when it comes to mental health burden. 31% of multiracial Americans in the U.S. struggle with a mental health illness in a given year.
What are the BIPOC community’s barriers to quality care?
In addition to the barriers familiar to all Americans, such as stigma and lack of access to quality care, BIPOC communities have to face some unique barriers as well. Those include heightened levels of distrust in the system and lack of cultural competence.
To this day, no phenomenon has been as strongly affected by stigma as mental health. For years, mental health disorders were seen as a divine punishment, and as something to ignore or ridicule. As mentioned before, we have been experiencing a positive shift in the approach toward mental health in recent years. But while we have come a long way, stigma is still present and people with mental illnesses are still discriminated against.
This problem is very much present in BIPOC communities. A 2013 study that explored African-American attitude toward mental illness concluded that the people of the Black community in the U.S. are “very concerned about stigma associated with mental illness,” and prefer religious coping over seeking mental health services. Similar findings have been shown in other studies as well, with some seeing mental illness as “weakness.” For the sake of those who need help, we recommend battling mental health stigma through educating, creating a supportive environment, and enabling care.
Lack of cultural competence
It is no secret that most historic figures in psychology and psychiatry were white men: from Aaron Beck through Sigmund Freud, and all the way back to Emil Kraepelin and Wilhelm Wundt. This lack of racial diversity leads to a lack of “cultural competence,” presenting problems when treating racially diverse patients.
The American Psychological Association loosely defines cultural competence as “the ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one's own.” This notion is incredibly elusive; cultural competence is hard to define, hard to research, and hard to execute. In spite of these difficulties, with the growing diversity of ethnically and racially diverse researchers and doctors, the topic has been drawing more and more attention in recent years.
Lack of access to affordable, quality care
A major barrier to receiving help for all Americans is cost and insurance. BIPOC communities are more likely to be uninsured and delay care due to cost than white Americans. In 2020, about half of the 30 million uninsured adults in the U.S. were from BIPOC communities, and the number of underinsured Americans who suffer from insufficient coverage is unknown. This affects BIPOC communities in all aspects of healthcare, and especially in mental health care.
The combination of doctors not accepting insurance, inconvenient and distant doctor locations, the relatively low number of mental health professionals, expensive medications, out-of-pocket expenses, and high co-pay keeps many from getting the help they need.
Yet, there is no reason for the past to dictate the future in this case. At Antidote, you don’t need insurance to get quality healthcare. We believe that affordable and reliable telehealth services, that are accessible to anyone regardless of location, race, ethnicity, medical condition, or income level, are a basic human right. We strive to find a balance between affordable and flexible payment plans and quality care provided by board-certified doctors.
No insurance needed. No co-pay. No outrageous and surprising medical bills – for all.