Mental Health in a Minority Community: A Real Perspective
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In this month of July, we are celebrating people of minority communities who have mental illnesses. First, introduction. My name is *Noelle and I am from India. My favorite hobbies are drawing, listening to music, dancing, and watching movies on Netflix. Aside from my interests, I have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is usually described as extreme mood swings that include emotional highs and lows. It is like a roller coaster. During the lows, you feel sad or hopeless and lose interest in activities once enjoyed. While in the highs, you feel euphoric, full of energy, and surprisingly irritable.
Some specific mental health struggles faced by minorities, I believe, is how to deal or cope with mental illnesses and finding the right resources for treating their conditions. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I did not know how to manage my symptoms in my episodes. I was oblivious to the wonders of what simple activities such as meditating, exercising, sharing feelings, eating nutritiously, working on hobbies, and caring for others can have on your mental health. In fact, some minority groups do not possess the knowledge of how to improve their mood, thinking, and behavior.
Having the right resources for treating mental health is also very crucial. These resources allow for better understanding of your mental illness and provide effective monitoring of your mental health through treatment. For instance, warning signs, symptoms, and causes of mental illnesses give insight into recognizing when and how these episodes occur. Getting therapy or taking medications can help to improve your condition as well as prevent further episodic occurrences.
Unfortunately, there are several barriers to receiving the right resources or services for minorities: lack of insurance or underinsurance, mental illness stigma, minimal diversity among health care providers, inadequate number of culturally competent providers, language conflicts, distrust in the health care system, and insufficient support for mental health service in safety net settings.
Each culture has its unique perspective on mental health. Most cultures have growing stigma circulating the concept of mental health. In fact, mental health challenges are identified as weaknesses. Sadly, the mentally ill have to hide their mental condition because of the fear of humiliation by society. Even worse, discrimination. This makes it difficult for those who are struggling to talk openly and ask for help.
Sometimes, there is a lack of understanding by family, friends, colleagues, or others about mental illness. Culture can affect how people describe and feel about their symptoms—someone can choose to report only physical symptoms, only emotional symptoms, or both. For example, Asians choose to avoid negative thoughts due to personal problems over outwardly expressing their discomfort or misery. The amount of support that someone gets from his or her family and community regarding mental health depends on cultural factors.
As stigma becomes more prevalent in society, minorities are expected to obtain mental health treatment and support alone. When looking for treatment, consult with someone who understands your personal experiences and concerns. The process can be hard or time-consuming because resources and treatment options should address cultural factors and needs.
How do we break down mental health stigma in minority communities? The most common solution is spreading awareness of mental illness. The more we vocalize about it, the more we normalize it, and demonstrate that people with mental illness are also humans. Genetics, life experiences, or chemical imbalances in the brain are some causes of mental illnesses. At NAMI, we see the individual first, and not the illness. People should educate themselves and others on mental health. They also should be conscious about using the right language.
I think we should be more aware of our attitudes and behavior by examining our judgmental thinking which is bolstered by our upbringing and society. We should show compassion, respect, and support for the mentally ill. Similarly, society can ensure that the mentally ill are treated fairly and equally. An interesting idea is to show that mental illness can be a celebration of mental wellness.
What kinds of mental health services are needed by minority communities? A great variety are counseling and psychiatric services, family therapies, crisis phone hotlines, advocacy and support groups, and financial help organizations for treating mental health.
Crisis phone hotlines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline are free and confidential as well as follow the best practices in risk assessment. The “Born This Way Foundation” advocates mental wellness and empowerment. Financial aid groups such as NeedyMeds, a national nonprofit, helps people obtain affordable care. It offers drug discount cards that can be utilized for both prescription and over the counter medications. It also provides a range of assistance programs, free clinics, and drug coupons.
We should all strive for inclusion and embrace mental illness. The power lies within our voices!
*Name changed for anonymity.