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Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) puts it this way. "As hard as it is for anyone to get proper mental health care in the United States, it's even harder for racial, ethnic, religious, and gender minorities. Not only are there the problems most of us experience—issues with insurance, long wait times, difficulty finding specialists, sky-rocketing deductibles and co-pays—but there are added burdens of access and quality-of-care."

Yep, that's about right. From my point of view, anyway. So what can we do about it?

Awareness Can Be a Beginning

July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and that's a start. Getting most of us thinking about the disparity in access to care is a first step to overcoming that disparity. And we can use this awareness to share resources and encourage our legislators at both the state and national levels to improve access to mental health services. 

However, if you are part of an underserved and/or underrepresented group with a mental health issue, you probably cannot wait for action to get the care you need. As a bisexual woman with Bipolar Disorder and a flare for the eccentric, I have experienced near-impossible access to care; and quality care at that. If you can relate, maybe we can help.

Doublesolid has put together a spreadsheet with contact information for various mental health support organizations. These organizations have web pages, and most have multiple social media portals as well, so your initial contact can be informal or even anonymous. I particularly want to draw your attention to Mental Health America, which provides a battery of tests that are easy to take — no registration required — and may give you some insight into your mental health. I know the wait times are grueling, and the effort is exhausting, but you are worth the effort. 

New National Resource

Though we may be quite behind in caring for our community's mental health, we see more attention given to mental health than ever. In fact, just this week, the USA went live with the  988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for you to use if you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress. According to Mentalhealth.gov, "trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals". It's not perfect, but it's a place to start! Progress is progress!

You can also check with your particular state to see if they have additional resources. For instance, in the form of New Hampshire, any resident can dial 2-1-1 for immediate assistance and referral information.

NAMI NH, who Doublesolid supports through donation and fundraising, is offering a Free Webinar this month, "Impact of Racism and Trauma on Black Mental Health," on July 26th. Click this LINK for more information and to register.

Fighting Stigma

I'm so sick of stigma already. Since I am now the big 5-0, I have had many years to endure this stigma myself. But unfortunately, some of the stigmas I faced have pushed me to spiral faster than I would at my typical pace. To me, the stigma of mental illness is equivalent to the crushing death of Giles Corey. It's as if people say, "Hey, they're already suffering; why not add more." Sure, some stigma isn't even intentional, but ignorance is only an excuse once. And that's precisely why talking about mental health and mental illness is so damn important. The tough conversations get easier when we have the tough conversations. Inaction remains when we're kept in the closet, so, eff that.

The stigma I have personally faced in the workplace, the community, and even my own family has often made my mental illness more challenging to control, taking the air out of my lungs and crushing my spirit. It's easier to lay this stigma on folks in underrepresented and underserved groups because we need to scream at the top of our damn lungs to be heard. And we are already tired. But when we scream together, we LIVE LIFE LOUD and get the attention we deserve for a better quality of life.

I live in a part of the country where people come from all over the world for healthcare. Yet, I have often had to fight for access while somehow managing my mental health during a crisis. This is unacceptable anywhere in this country, and exactly why I write this today. 

Every underserved and underrepresented group has its own culture, and cultural values can significantly and unexpectedly affect people's abilities and desires to seek care. Stigma may loom even more significant for minority folks than it does for majority populations. The cultural values that make each minority population special may also make its members resistant to seeking help when they need it.

And I'm here to tell you that stigma is why Doublesolid exists. It's our mission to detonate stigma — to get people talking about mental health issues without shame or embarrassment. If you are resistant to seeking help, spend time on this site. Read the personal accounts of our Rockstars. Consider contributing your own story. If we have learned one thing since starting Doublesolid, the louder you talk about your struggle, the less power stigma has over you. Nothing — prejudice, bias, and your cultural values — should stand between you and the support you may need for mental health.

Long (But Paved) Road Ahead

We have a long way to go to get mental health care to all who need it. But there are amazing people working tirelessly to advocate and make changes to improve the delivery and quality of mental health care. 

Until then, and even after that, we are here to remind you that you're not alone. We understand. And we'll continue to provide you with the best designs and resources to help empower you to advocate for the care you need to live your best life. Do not give up. You are worth every single effort.

 


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