July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (aka: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Mental Health Awareness Month). Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness; however, background, identity, systems, and institutions can make mental health access more difficult for certain populations. In May of 2008, the US House of Representatives resolved that July is Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of minority mental health.
Each year, millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. In minority communities, these problems are increased by less access to care, cultural stigma, and lower quality care, and therefore, disparities in mental health care persist. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that racial and ethnic minority groups in the U.S. are less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to use community mental health services, more likely to use emergency departments, and more likely to receive lower quality care. Poor mental health care access and quality of care contribute to poor mental health outcomes, including suicide, among racial and ethnic minority populations. Intergenerational trauma, poverty, stigma, issues with access to care, and viral videos of murders of minorities in the media, have been compounded with inequities exposed and exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minority youth mental health is of increased concern. In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Blacks or African Americans, ages 15-24, and Latinx or Hispanics, ages 15-34, and the leading cause of death for Asian/Pacific Islanders, ages 15-24 (CDC). In grades 9-12, Black females were 60% more likely to attempt suicide, and Latinx were 30% more likely to attempt suicide, as compared to non-Hispanic White females (SAMHSA, 2019). According to a congressional taskforce, Black youth have the fastest growing rate for suicide, and the suicide rate for Black children ages 5-12 is roughly twice that of White children of the same age group. Self-reported suicide attempts rose by 73% between 1991-2017 for Black high school students who took the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, while injuries by attempt rose by 122% for Black adolescent boys. In Kentucky, Black students grades 6-12 were more likely to attempt suicide in the past year, more likely to get suspended from school or arrested, more likely to feel unsafe at school, and more likely to have a low perception of risk of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs compared to other students (KIP survey, 2018). From 2015 to 2020, suicides among Black Kentucky residents who were 24 or younger at time of death increased 260% (KIPRC, 2021).
For 2021 Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we are partnering across Kentucky to raise awareness. We have updated our toolkit featuring sample social media posts, articles, videos, training for behavioral health clinicians, and more. Join us for a month full of virtual roundtable discussions and interviews regarding minority mental health topics. We are coming together to not only discuss problems, but to highlight resiliency in the community and prevention, treatment, and recovery solutions. Regardless of how small the number of racial and ethnic minorities in your community, health equity research shows that it is important for the health of the whole community to address the health of disparate populations. Only then can all communities truly thrive.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). [Accessed 04/21/2021]. http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html
Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP survey). (2018) Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities Division of Behavioral Health. https://www.kipsurvey.com/
Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center (KIPRC) as bona fide agent for the Kentucky Department for Public Health, June 2021. Number of suicides among Black Kentucky residents who were 24 or younger at time of death, 2015–2020. Data Source: Kentucky Violent Death Reporting System (KYVDRS). Data from 2009–2020 are provisional and subject to change.
Ring the Alarm: The Crisis of Black Youth Suicide in America. A Report to Congress from The Congressional Black Caucus Emergency Task Force on Black Youth Suicide and Mental Health. https://watsoncoleman.house.gov/uploadedfiles/full_taskforce_report.pdf