Why National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month Is Important
By Taylor Harling
We observe National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month each July to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health encourages state, tribal, and local leaders, community-based organizations, faith leaders, healthcare providers and individuals to educate their communities regarding mental health stigma.
According to data from the CDC, suicide was the leading cause of death among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders aged 10 to 19 in 2020; it was the second leading cause of death among those aged 20 to 34.
Suicide was the third leading cause of death for African Americans ages 10-24 in 2020. The suicide rate is four times greater for African American men than women. African American females in grades 9-12 were 60% more likely to attempt suicide than white females.
In 2020, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Native Americans ages 10-24. The overall rate of death from suicide for Native American adults is about 20% higher than for white adults. Native Americans had the highest suicide rate of any ethnic group in 2021. In 2019, adolescent Native American females, ages 15-24, had a death rate that was five times higher than white females in the same age group. In that same period, Native American males 15-24 had a death rate by suicide that was twice that of white males in the same age group.
The percentage of Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders who reported having any mental illness (AMI) in 2021 was 16% and 18%, respectively. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that despite the need, only one in four Asian adults with mental illness receive treatment. Reasons for this may include language barriers, less health insurance coverage, legal status, the stigma that goes with mental illness, and acculturation.
Asian American, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders face unique barriers to behavioral health care including:
- Language barriers make it difficult for Asian Americans to access behavioral health services.
- Mental health stigma and cultural conceptualizations of behavioral health within Asian American communities can reduce help-seeking.
- Perceived lower need of mental health care among Asian Americans compared to other racial and ethnic groups.
- Provider shortage of clinicians with diverse racial/ethnic backgrounds.
For more information about National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, please visit National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month – Health Disparities (hhs.gov). The Jason Foundation is also a valuable resource. The Jason Foundation is dedicated to the prevention of suicide prevention through education and awareness programs. For more information on how you can help a loved one or friend struggling with mental illness or suicidal ideation, please visit www.jasonfoundation.com. All programs that The Jason Foundation offers are available at no cost.