Mental Health Awareness in Minority Communities
The rise of studies conducted regarding mental illnesses has brought to light the importance of taking mental health seriously. As a society, we have come to understand mental illness and how to treat it, which is a far reach from how people were originally being put into asylums and prisons simply because understanding mental illnesses was difficult. Even though there are strides being taken towards more acceptance and understanding, minority communities are often left suffering from lack of acceptance and understanding, leaving people who need help in the dark.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “On average, Latinos and African Americans had more chronic stress, more unhealthy behaviors, and more chance for depression”, than their white counterparts, yet white people are better represented in the media and in statistics regarding mental illnesses. Many external factors come into play when regarding these statistics such as societal expectations like what is considered normal and economic inequalities between the races. In interviews with two young men, one of mixed descent and one of Latino background, each said they didn’t need help, only relied on themselves, and the idea of going to a professional was out of the question because they believed a stranger, especially one who had not experienced what they had would not understand. In another interview, a young Latina said she had tried going to therapy when she was ten but that didn’t last and as a result, for the past years she had just dealt with her emotions by avoiding them. When asked if she reached out to her family, she stated that they didn’t understand nor care so she kept it to herself and pretended to be alright.
Many minorities, especially young minorities, ignore their feelings and health because they have been taught that they have all they need to be happy. It’s not uncommon to hear from an immigrant parent that, “You have clothes, food to eat, and a roof over your head. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be happy; your life is better than others.” In the disadvantageous state that many lower income minority families are in, their main focus tends to be on basic needs, such as food, water, and shelter. Physiological and security needs are put above love, esteem, and self-actualization. Because of this young minorities are expected to be grateful, successful, and happy. These expectations hinder minorities from reaching out for help because many believe that they should be happy, they should be successful, but most importantly they believe they should be normal.
As society becomes more aware of treating and helping those who need it, it’s important for minorities not to be left behind.