Surgeon General Reports That Race and Ethnicity Influence Mental Health
"Culture counts," concludes the Surgeon General, in "Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity", a supplement to "Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General".
Many Aspects of Mental Illness Influenced by Race and Ethnicity
The Surgeon General reports that cultural beliefs and norms influence many aspects of mental illness including:
- How individuals from a given culture communicate and manifest their symptoms
- Their style of coping
- Their family and community supports
- Their willingness to seek treatment
Although one in five Americans experience mental health problems, less than half of them receive help, regardless of race or ethnicity. However, some portions of the population, including individuals of ethnic and racial minorities, are especially underserved.
Everyone faces difficulties obtaining mental health services, including:
- Unavailability or fragmentation of services
- Inadequate financing of services
- Stigma surrounding mental illness
Minority populations, however, also:
- Have less access to mental health services
- Receive poorer quality services
- Are under-represented in research
They also have greater exposure to racism, discrimination, violence and poverty, all of which adversely affect mental health.
Minorities Over-Represented in Most Vulnerable Populations
Minority individuals living in the community experience mental health problems at rates similar to non-minority individuals. However, minority individuals are over-represented in our most vulnerable populations that do not receive adequate mental health services. These populations include:
- Those who are homeless
- Those who are incarcerated
- Those who are institutionalized
- Children in foster care
The message of the Surgeon General is that mental health services should be available to everyone.
The Surgeon General proposes to improve the quality of services available to racial and ethnic minorities by:
- Increasing our knowledge of culturally relevant treatment
- Improving access to treatment
- Reducing barriers to treatment
His report focuses especially on the most recognized racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States: African Americans, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and Hispanic Americans.
Focus on Race and Ethnicity Relevant in Westchester County
The Surgeon General's focus on mental health services for minority groups nationwide is also of critical importance close to home, here in Westchester County, New York. Recent census data report the increasing number of African American, Asian, American Indian and Hispanic individuals in the county.
MHA is committed to providing quality mental health services to all who are in need. Our commitment is reflected throughout this web site.
More Information on This Web Site
To learn more about MHA services available to all individuals please visit the other sections of this web site, particularly:
Consistent with the Surgeon General's recommendations, we continually strive to:
- Improve our knowledge of culturally relevant treatment
- Improve access to treatment
- Reduce barriers to treatment for all
Some of our efforts in this area have included our conference on "Working with African American Families and Black Men in Treatment", and our ongoing course in Spanish language for clinicians and for our Information and Referral staff. All clinicians attend annual training to ensure provision of culturally sensitive services.
Links to Other Relevant Sites
An extensive summary of the report "Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity, A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General" may be found on the web site of the Surgeon General at http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/access/NNBBHS.pdf.
Additional information about the changing population of Westchester County may be found on the web site of the Westchester County government at http://www.westchestergov.com/planning/research/Census2000/Oct03updates/Research/census_2000.htm