Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
July serves as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It began in 2008 in order to “provide awareness, support families, and eliminate stigma.”As a mental health professional, it is important for people of color to engage in self-care and be mindful of their mental health. Mental illness affects one in five adults and one in 10 children in the United States. People of color are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for symptoms of mental illness, and have less access to and availability of mental health services. We can change this! It is time to eliminate the stigma and remove the stereotypes related to mental health and seeking mental health care.
What Are The Signs?
Many times people do not understand when they should seek treatment. Not all individuals who seek help have a mental health diagnosis. A person can pursue treatment for a number of reasons. Here are a few examples:
- Experiencing various stress/stressors
- Prolonged feelings of sadness, anxiety, and/or depression
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- History of trauma (vicarious, emotional/psychological, verbal, physical, sexual, etc.)
- Body image concerns
- Experienced any type of loss
- Financial concerns
- Facing various forms of discrimination or oppression
- Short-tempered or finding yourself snapping at others
- Unproductive at work or taking prolonged leave of absences
- Repeated problems in interpersonal relationships with friends and/or family
- Ever contemplated and/or attempted suicide
- Hearing voices or seeing images others do not
Where Do I Go?
One point of confusion for many is the scope of practice between various mental health professionals. Here is a quick rundown:
Psychologist: Psychologists are professionals who hold a doctoral degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) and received specific training in diagnosis, assessment, research, and psychotherapy (individual, family, group). In their training, they accumulate thousands of hours of clinical experience prior to entering practice. In most states, psychologists CANNOT prescribe psychotropic/psychiatric medication.
Licensed Mental Health Professional: These therapists tend to have a Master’s degree and hold state licenses or credentials of LPC or LMHC. These therapists are trained to provide individual and group counseling.
Marriage and Family Therapist: These therapists tend to have a Master’s degree They often hold the license and credential of MFT. These therapists are trained to provide individual and group counseling, and often have a lot of specialized experience in working with couples and families.
Psychiatrist: Psychiatrists have medical training and received an MD degree. In their medical training, they specialized in mental health care and are able to prescribe psychotropic/psychiatric medication. Few psychiatrists do psychotherapy.
Regardless of which professional you choose, you should seek a professional who is licensed and completed their degree from a reputable, accredited program. Be wary of other types of “professionals” who often do not have education and experience in mental health concerns or psychotherapy.
Another hurdle for many is the costs associated with mental health treatment. Many community-based agencies offer a sliding-scale fee. That is, a fee for service based on your income—which can be free! Consulting state agencies or websites, such as Psychology Today (which provides a directory of practitioners within your zip code), are great ways to seek help.
Another great alternative is if you have a college or university with a doctoral program in your area with an associated training clinic. Although some individuals are hesitant to have students has therapists, these students are prepared, eager, and are supervised by an experienced, licensed professional—therefore, getting the top quality care. Typically, the services are on a sliding scale.
When you make the call (yay!), you will spend a few minutes providing initial information about yourself and your presenting concern. Your first appointment serves an intake session where the therapist learns about you and why you are seeking services. It should be noted that you should also learn about them! Do not be afraid to ask them questions, even difficult ones! They’re trained. They’re used to it. One of the biggest markers of success is the professional therapeutic relationship between client and therapist. If you find there isn’t a fit, simply ask for a referral.
After your first initial sessions, you and your therapist should formulate a treatment plan. Treatment doesn’t always have to be long-term. There are brief therapy models for individuals experiencing brief stressors or specific concerns. You and your therapist should be communicating progress and duration of treatment along the way.
There is no shame in seeking services. It is encouraged to treat your mental health as you would your physical health. Especially since they’re both connected! In fact, poor mental health can impact your physical health and lead to the development of a number of lifestyle diseases (i.e., diseases that are preventable and curable), such as heart disease and diabetes. Thus, seeking mental health treatment can alleviate these physical health problems and conditions!
Have a loved one experiencing difficulties? Find a local support group, such as a local National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter, to find support and additional resources.
Happy Minority Mental Health Awareness Month! Wishing you all health and happiness!
Here are additional hotlines and websites: