All too often it is the most vulnerable populations who have the least access to mental health care. In 1999, the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General released a report that catalogued the striking disparities in mental health access among Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American communities.
Minority communities were found to have less access to mental health services than their White counterparts; to be less likely to receive needed care; and in instances where an individual of color did receive care, it was more likely to be inferior.
“Despite the existence of effective treatments, disparities lie in the availability, accessibility, and quality of mental health services for racial and ethnic minorities,” the report concluded. “As a result, these populations bear a disproportionately high disability burden from mental disorders.”
More than a decade later, disparities in terms of access to care still persist, multiple studies and experts have concluded.
In one recently announced initiative, Goshen College, an Indiana institution affiliated with the Mennonite Church, will partner with a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital to study mental health disparities that communities of color face.
Gilberto Perez is the senior director of intercultural development and educational partnerships at Goshen. He said that Goshen’s role will be to help facilitate connections with community organizations in California, Colorado, Georgia and Indiana and researchers. The goal is to not only study the underlying causes for persistent health care disparities, but also to research solutions to address inequities.
“Goshen college, [acting] for the research unit, [will assume] the role of the community consultant,” said Perez. “We [will] help the research unit access minority communities across the country to … gain new perspectives on what mechanisms minority communities are using to actually access mental health services.”
The four-year research project will be funded with a $125,000 grant from the the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities.
Staff writer Catherine Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.