BIPOC Mental Health
According to the American Counseling Association:
“Black and Indigenous people and other people of color (BIPOC) experience a broad spectrum of ongoing discrimination, oppression, and inequity rooted in America’s colonialist history, all of which foster both collective and individual trauma in those communities.”
The American Psychiatric Association reported in 2017 that 17% of Black people and 23% of Native Americans live with a mental illness. People who identify as multi-racial are more likely to report any mental illness within the past year than any other racial or ethnic group. According to research performed by the American Counseling Association, BIPOC groups are:
- Less likely to have access to mental health services
- Less likely to seek out treatment
- More likely to receive inferior quality of care
- More likely to prematurely end services
These barriers can be attributed to a variety of factors. Examples include cultural stigma around mental illness, systemic racism and discrimination, a lack of health insurance, language barriers, mistrust of mental health care providers, and a lack of cultural competency on the part of mental health care providers.
Since COVID-19, many BIPOC communities have been impacted in numerous ways. According to the Centers for Disease Control, symptoms of depression were reported 59% more frequently by Hispanic adults than non-Hispanic White adults. It was also reported that a larger percentage of multi-racial and non-Hispanic adults of other races and ethnicities reported stress and worry about stigma or discrimination associated with being blamed for spreading COVID-19 in comparison to White adults.
What can you do to help?
Cultural competency and awareness do not occur in a vacuum. According to the American Psychological Association, the following tips can help in building cultural awareness and competency:
- Think outside your own box. We are all influenced by our own values, beliefs, and life experiences. We need to carefully consider how our perspectives affect our understanding of other cultures and avoid making assumptions about others based on our own experiences.
- Experience culture. Consider experiential ways that you can learn about other cultures and strive to participate in activities that may not be familiar to you. When possible, take part in social, community and educational activities like viewing films, reading books, and attending festivals, parades, art exhibits, workshops, and lectures.
- Avoid insensitive comments. In group contexts, individuals sometimes make insensitive and hurtful comments about others (e.g., jokes, slurs, etc.). Do not reinforce this behavior. If you feel comfortable doing so, make known your discomfort with what has been said and ask that no more insensitive comments be made.
- Expand your comfort zone. There are individuals or cultural groups with whom you do not have experience working or socializing. Acknowledge this challenge and try to learn as much as possible about the individual or group so that you can build your confidence and bolster your outreach. Ask questions to make it clear that you want to learn more.
- Listen carefully. Hearing is not always listening. Our own perceptions, biases and expectations sometimes make it difficult to listen to and comprehend both overt and covert messages. Be mindful to focus on and identify the information being conveyed.
Claudia Coxx, LMSW , is a psychotherapist specializing in depression, anxiety, and BIPOC mental health at Marsh Psychology Group. She can be reached at email@example.com or 248-860-2024.