Although mental illness and psychological difficulties impact all racial and ethnic groups, Whites are more like to utilize treatment to improve their difficulties. Recent data reports that in the past year, outpatient mental health services were most frequently used by White adults (7.8 percent), and American Indian or Alaska Native adults (7.7 percent), followed by Black (4.7 percent), Hispanic (3.8 percent), and Asian (2.5 percent) adults (SAMHSA, 2015). One of the biggest factors related to seeking psychological treatment is structural barriers and negative attitudes such as stigma. Service cost or lack of insurance coverage was the most frequently cited reason for not using mental health services across all racial/ethnic groups (SAMHSA, 2015). Additionally, the belief that use of mental health services would not help was the least frequently cited reason for not using mental health services across all racial/ ethnic groups (SAMHSA, 2015).
In my own research, I have found that among racial and ethnic groups, stigma and concerns about privacy are some of the most important factors that hinder the use of services among these groups (Turner, Jensen-Doss, & Heffer, 2015). To improve the use of services efforts must be made to address the stigma around seeking services. One of the ways to decrease stigma is to better understand the benefits of seeking services. In a previous blog (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-race-good-health/201503/5-signs-seeking-help-may-benefit-you), I discuss 5 signs for when to seek mental health services.
These signs may help you decide whether you or someone close to you may benefit from talking to a psychologist or mental health professional.
- Their personality changes. You may notice sudden or gradual changes in the way that someone typically behaves. He or she may behave in ways that don't seem to fit the person's values, or the person may just seem different.
- They seem uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated, or moody. You may notice the person has more frequent problems controlling his or her temper and seems irritable or unable to calm down. People in more extreme situations of this kind may be unable to sleep or may explode in anger at a minor problem.
- They withdraw or isolate themselves from other people. Someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends and stop taking part in activities he or she used to enjoy. In more severe cases the person may start failing to make it to work or school. Not to be confused with the behavior of someone who is more introverted, this sign is marked by a change in someone's typical sociability, as when someone pulls away from the social support he or she typically has.
- They stop taking care of themselves and may engage in risky behavior. You may notice a change in the person's level of personal care or an act of poor judgment on his or her part. For instance, someone may let his or her personal hygiene deteriorate, or the person may start abusing alcohol or illicit substances or engaging in other self-destructive behavior that may alienate loved ones.
- They seem overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by their circumstances.Have you noticed someone who used to be optimistic and now can’t find anything to be hopeful about? That person may be suffering from extreme or prolonged grief, or feelings of worthlessness or guilt. People in this situation may say that the world would be better off without them, suggesting suicidal thinking.
Copyright 2015 Erlanger A. Turner, Ph.D.
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2015). Mental Illness Surveillance Among Adults in the United States. Retrieved May 2015 from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/su6003a1.htm?s_cid=su6003a1_w
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (2015). Racial/ Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use among Adults. HHS Publication No. SMA-15-4906. Rockville, MD.
Turner, E.A., Jensen-Doss, A., & Heffer, R. (2015, April). Ethnicity as a moderator of how parents’ attitudes and perceived stigma influence intentions to seek child mental health services. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. Advance online publication