Mental Health Risk Factors for Minorities

In 2008 the month of July was established as the Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in efforts to provide public awareness to mental health struggles that minorities and underrepresented populations face.

Originally, the word “minority” was used to distinguish minority populations such as minority ethnicities, races, or cultures. Today the phrase encompasses other minority groups as well. Such minority groups include the LGBTQ community and immigrants.

In this article, we will be discussing the unique mental health challenges experienced by each minority group.

LGBTQ

While not all LGBTQ’s have the same experience, many have experienced discrimination, prejudice, harassment, family rejection, and even hate crimes. These type of experiences have lasting effects that can be hard to overcome.

HealthyPeople.gov wrote an article stating:

“Research suggests that LGBT individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBT persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI) reported that LGTBQs are at higher risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts than the general population. They stated that LGB adults are more than two times as likely to experience a mental health condition when compared with the heterosexual population.

They went on to report that LBG high schoolers are almost five times as likely to commit suicide and 48% of adult transgenders have contemplated suicide in the last year.

how you can help

Suicide is a tragedy for all who are affected by it. Reaching out and supporting friends and family who are LGBTQ could help reduce their suicide risk. As communities, we can help this population by practicing mutual respect despite differences.

immigrants

Immigration can be an extremely shocking experience. Most people who immigrate experience culture shock, encounter a language barrier, feel isolated from the new community, and miss the culture and people they left behind.

A study called “Mental Health in Immigrants Versus Native Population: A Systematic Review of the Literature” found that globally “immigrants experience more problems in depression, anxiety, and somatic disorders, pathologies related directly to the migration process and stress suffered.”

The American Journal of Psychiatry conducted a study of immigrants in the U.S. They found that immigrants in the United States “generally have lower rates of mood, anxiety, and substance disorders compared to the U.S.-born populations.”

Risk factors correlated with higher rates of psychiatric disorders include age at the time of immigration and length of residence in the United States. The younger the child at the time of immigration was linked to higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders. They found that the more time spent in the United States was correlated with much higher rates of psychiatric disorders. They said,

“Generational status is associated with an increased lifetime risk for all psychiatric disorders, such that lifetime prevalence rates for first-, second-, and third-generation immigrants are 19.3%, 35.27%, and 54.64%, respectively.”

The study found that for a lot of psychiatric disorders in the U.S., immigrants ranked lower than native-born populations, but with each new generation, their prevalence rates increased so as to surpass the native-born population.

They found that immigrant groups globally tend to have higher rates of mental illness compared to native-born populations. Globally, the trend was similar to that of immigrants to the U.S.; that prevalence of mental illness increased with each generation.

Immigrants that are refugees have an even higher risk of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

How you can help

A lot of immigrants do not have the money to spend on getting help for mental illness. They also experience isolation, rejection, or indifference from the native-born people in their communities. This can lead to an increased risk for mental illness.

By getting to know those refugees and immigrants in our communities we can better help them integrate into their new life, the new culture, and can even assist with the language barrier. By doing these things, we could help reduce the isolation and stress they experience which in turn helps reduce the risk of mental illness.

Ethnicities

Asian

The Asian ethnicity ranks above average in all mental health categories. While they are above average, the highest prevalence of mental illness is suicide in the American- Asian population, especially with those who are immigrants.

Latino/ Hispanic

NAMI said that “common mental health disorders among Latinos are generalized anxiety disordermajor depressionposttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism. Additionally, Latina high school girls have high rates of suicide attempts.”

They argue that a lot of Latino-Americans do not get help due to the stigma of being “loco” or crazy, lack of health insurance, the language barrier, fear of being deported because of legal status, and the cultural belief that family matters should be kept private.

African Americans

The National Alliance on Mental Illness stated that

“African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to unmet needs and other barriers. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. “

Such mental health problems include depression, PTSD, ADHD, and suicide.

The research poses that the increased risk of mental health illness could be due to a lack of education on the topic, shame, and stigma in the culture.

A lack of education would make it difficult to identify mental illness along with knowing how to help treat it. Shame and stigma could make mental health issues appear as a weakness and cause reluctance to share when experiencing personal struggles.

Additional risk factors

McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research wrote an article stating,

“There is a significant association between poverty and mental illness in the United States. Research shows that this relationship is bidirectional: poverty may exacerbate mental illness and mental illness may lead to poverty.

Those who rank lower financially tend to have a greater risk of developing a mental illness. Those who are in poverty and have additional risk factors would increase their probability of having a mental illness.

how you can help

Mental health stigma affects all races, all financial demographics, and all populations. The more we are educated about mental health and treatment for mental health the better we will be able to discuss mental health issues. Normalizing mental health is one of the best ways to help all who suffer from it.