Minorities are less likely than whites to receive needed mental health care, and the quality of care they do get tends to be less than good, says a Surgeon General report unveiled at APA’s 2001 Annual Convention. The report, Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity, is a supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, released in 1999.

“Disparities exist in access, utilization and quality of mental health services for racial and ethnic minorities,” said U.S. Surgeon General David M. Satcher, MD, PhD, presenting the report to a packed room of more than 500 attendees.

In fact, he said, minorities experience “greater disability and greater burdens” due to mental illness than whites–“not necessarily because the illnesses are more severe…but because of the barriers they face in terms of access to care.” Some of those barriers include cost and stigma. Failure to address these disparities, he said, is “playing out in human and economic terms on our streets, homeless shelters, foster-care systems and in our jails.

“That is why we say today, in a resounding fashion, that when it comes to mental health, culture counts,” he said emphatically.

Satcher defined culture as a common set of norms, beliefs and values that influence mental health. “It can have an impact on how mental illness is perceived or diagnosed, how services are organized and how they’re funded. It also affects how patients express their symptoms…and how they cope in the range of their community and family supports,” he said.

Although no group in America has escaped being touched by mental disorders, he said, many ethnic groups share similar social and economic inequities, especially great vulnerability to racism, violence and poverty. And minority groups tend to be over-represented in high-need populations but underrepresented among mental health professionals, Satcher said.

From American Psychology Association.

Shares 0