Minority Mental Health Month

Minority Mental Health Month

June 6th, 2017

In 2008, legislation was passed to establish the month of July as “Bebe Moore Campbell Minority Mental Health Awareness Month” in recognition of the late Ms. Campbell’s advocacy efforts to promote public awareness of mental illness among minorities and to improve minorities’ access to mental health treatment and services.

Almost two-thirds of people with a mental illness in America do not or cannot seek help. The cultural norms of certain minority groups dictate that seeking help for mental illness is unacceptable (Culture Counts, 2001).This cultural pressure, combined with the limited access to health care and the stigma surrounding mental health in America, result in minorities being even less likely than the entirety of the general population to seek out necessary mental health services.

American Latina feminist Dior Vargas offered her personal cultural lens on mental health as “…very much like crying is a sign of weakness and mental illness is like a white person thing.” She said she was told by family, “Don’t tell anyone about these issues outside of the household” (Ziv, 2016). She also stated that “For members of ethnic and racial minority groups, the road to treatment is often blocked by cultural views of mental illness and therapy, lack of insurance and access to appropriate care, and a critical deficiency of studies pertaining to nonwhite populations.” Vargas knew that shunning minority mental health issues was not the answer and she decided to take action by creating the People of Color & Mental Illness Photo Project. Vargas collected photos of people of color who live with mental illnesses so they did not feel alone.

North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center addresses the specific needs of the Hispanic/Latino community through the Latina Girls Project. This program, begun by Associate Executive Director Regina Barros-Rivera, offers bi-lingual and bi-cultural mental health counseling, group meetings and outings for the adolescent girls suffering from depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.  The program also includes family therapy as a critical component.

Calling the situation an epidemic is no exaggeration,” says Barros-Rivera. “Studies indicate that approximately 23% of Latina teens think about, attempt or commit suicide. That’s nearly one out of four girls. In addition, nearly 50% report feeling seriously depressed.”

The group is facilitated by highly trained, culturally sensitive social workers and mental health counselors who work together to help at-risk teen girls. The group is supported by a generous grant from John and Janet Kornreich Charitable Foundation which was established to “show girls the world outside of their communities and provide them with hope for their future.” Some of their outings include: visiting Segunda Quimbamba, a Jersey City-based Puerto Rican percussion and dance ensemble; attending La Gringa, a play at the Repertorio Español in Manhattan; touring the Metropolitan Museum of Art; visiting the Nassau County Museum of Art; and seeing several Broadway shows including On Your Feet and The Illusionist

To understand more about the history of this program go to: http://www.humansafetynet.com/latina-teens/

If you or your child is in need of support, contact the Guidance Center at 516-626-1971. Our trained clinicians can assist your family in setting your child up for successful emotional regulation throughout their life.

Chapter 2 Culture Counts: The Influence of Culture and Society on Mental Health. (2001). In Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity: A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK44249/

Ziv, S. (2016, April 27). Displaying the Diverse Faces of Mental Illness. Retrieved July 06, 2017, from http://www.newsweek.com/displaying-diverse-faces-mental-illness-387118