The following blog was authored by Drew Hickman, BS; Fulvia Camargo; Shayla C. Anderson, MPH, CHES; and Mary Roary, PhD, MBA at the SAMHSA Office of Behavioral Health Equity (OBHE).
As we observe National Suicide Prevention Month and strive to improve the mental health of community members, it is essential to step back to analyze how important mental health is and how harmful stigma can be in minority communities.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), mental illness is one of the most common medical conditions in the United States, and more than 50 percent of the population will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lives. Even though mental illness is evident across race, ethnicity, and gender, some minority groups including African Americans, American Indians and Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Hispanic and Latinx, and LGBTQ+ individuals experience higher stress and stigma associated with mental illness.
A stigma is a negative and often unfair social attitude attached to a person or group. Three types of stigmas – including public, self, and institutional stigma – are identified by the American Psychiatric Association.
- Public stigma is the negative or discriminatory attitudes that others have about mental illness.
- Self-stigma is the negative attitudes that people with mental illness have about their conditions.
- Institutional stigma is systematic, involving policies of the government and private organizations that limit opportunities for people with mental illness.
Stigma can create significant barriers for minority communities accessing mental health services. Members of racial groups can internalize negative stereotypes of their culture, leading to increased psychological distress and substance abuse. More than half of people do not receive treatment or help for their disorders. Stigma, prejudice, and discrimination against people with mental illness are still very present today. They often cause people to avoid or delay treatment due to concerns about being treated poorly or fear of losing their jobs and livelihood.
Changing the way mental health services are administered can help reduce stigma and barriers. To encourage this change, SAMHSA has developed the National Network to Eliminate Disparities in Behavioral Health (NNED). The NNED is a network of community-based organizations focused on the mental health and substance use issues of diverse racial and ethnic communities. The NNED supports information-sharing, training, and technical assistance toward the goal of promoting behavioral health equity. In 2021, SAMHSA’s Office of Behavioral Health Equity hosted the eleventh NNEDLearn annual training, which included five different tracks of NNED community-based organizations being trained in an evidence-supported and culturally appropriate mental illness and substance use prevention or treatment practice.
The five training tracks offered were:
- Achieving Whole Health: Balancing Mind, Body, and Spirit (AWH)
- Familia Adelante: Multi-Risk Reduction Behavioral Health Prevention for Latino Youth and Families (FA)
- Motivational Interviewing (MI)
- Preventing Long-Term Anger and Aggression in Youth (PLAAY)
- Project Venture: Positive Youth Development for American Indian and Alaska Native Youth (PV)
Interventions such as these allow for mental health services to be provided in non-traditional, culturally appropriate, and accessible ways to minority communities. They help eliminate stigma and reduce barriers to accessing culturally and linguistically appropriate behavioral health care by building on the innate strengths of individuals’ racial, ethnic, and cultural heritage. To learn more about NNEDLearn, read the NNEDLearn Implementation Analysis Report and watch brief digital stories from SAMHSA’s NNEDLearn YouTube Playlist!
Please see resources from SAMHSA below where you can access mental health support immediately.
If you or someone you know is in a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
- Help in English: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Ayuda en español: 1-888-628-9454