Why mental healthcare is less accessible to marginalized communities

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Individuals from minoritized ethnic communities are generally less likely to use mental healthcare services than the majority white population. Some of the reasons for disparities in mental health utilization by marginalized ethnic groups include provider discrimination, lack of adequate health insurance, high costs, limited access to quality care, stigma, mistrust of the healthcare system, and limited awareness about mental illnesses.

Why do people from historically marginalized communities feel put off from accessing mental healthcare? Image credit: Ekaterina Lesnik/EyeEm/Getty Images.

Although the prevalence of mental disorders is lower in Black people than in white people in the United States, the impact of these disorders tends to be more severe in marginalized communities.

For instance, depression is more likely to persist in Black and Hispanic individuals, despite its lower prevalence in these minoritized ethnic groups than in white individuals. Moreover, mental illnesses are more likely to cause disability in people from historically marginalized ethnic groups. Disparities in the utilization of mental health services could be partly responsible for these differences in outcomes. A 2015 survey found that 48% of white adults with mental illness utilized any mental health services in the previous year. In contrast, 22% of Asian Americans and around 31% of Black and Hispanic individuals with mental illness received mental health services during the same time.

Similarly, other studies have demonstrated the underutilization of mental health services by minoritized ethnic groups in need of mental healthcare. For instance, Black individuals with depression are less likely to adhere to antidepressant treatment than white individuals.

Individuals from marginalized communities who live with a mental illness are also more likelyTrusted Source to be misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed and receive a lower quality of care.

These racial and ethnic disparities in the utilization of mental health services are due to a multitude of structural, cultural, and economic factors.

The concept of structural racism describes the inequities that exist due to the interaction between institutional and broader sociocultural factors that continue to operate with stereotypes and racial discrimination at their core.

Structural racism thus refers to laws, practices, and social norms that perpetuate inequities in access to housing, employment, education, healthcare, justice, and finance.

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