A recent pair of studies conducted by UCLA researchers found the mental health needs of the Latinx ethnic groups and Asian ethnic groups in California are not being met. The studies, published July 22, broke down the Latinx and Asian populations in California into respective ethnic groups to analyze their mental health needs using California Health Interview Survey data from 2015 to 2019.
The studies used two measures for expressing mental health needs, one being self-reported need and the other being symptoms of psychological distress, said Imelda Padilla-Frausto, one of the authors of the studies and a research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. According to the policy brief for the study on Asian ethnic groups, 68% of Asian adults with symptoms of serious or moderate psychological distress experienced unmet mental health care needs. When examining specific Asian ethnic groups, however, the percentage varied from 45% for Japanese adults to 78% for Vietnamese adults.
Similarly, the policy brief for the study on Latinx ethnic groups found that 61% of Latinx adults in serious or moderate psychological distress experienced unmet mental health needs, but that percentage dropped to 52% for South American adults and rose as high as 75% for non-Salvadoran Central American adults.
Both Latinx and Asian adults were also more likely to report experiencing symptoms of psychological distress than to report feeling like they need mental health care, according to the studies. The issue is that people are feeling distressed and are reporting symptoms of distress, but they are not connecting it to needing professional help, Padilla-Frausto said, adding that it is analogous to going undiagnosed with other medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Several factors can contribute to the variation between ethnic groups, including immigration experience, politics in one’s home country and how people are treated in the U.S., said Padilla-Frausto, who is also a commissioner for the Los Angeles County Mental Health Commission.
Another recommendation was to remove barriers to accessing mental health care by offering services in different languages and improving the ethnic and cultural diversity of providers available, said Susan Babey, another author of the studies and a senior research scientist at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Using culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate materials can help people who might have limited English proficiency and improve their mental health literacy, she added.
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