According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mental illness refers to having a mental health disorder that involves sustained, abnormal alterations in thinking, mood, or behavior associated with distress and impaired functioning. Having a mental heath disorder is a serious concern and is just as important as maintaining your physical health. Mental illness also makes it more difficult to manage chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer (CDC, 2015).
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.
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
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Dr. Turner is a licensed psychologist with expertise in behavioral pediatrics, child mental health, disruptive behavior disorders, and minority mental health. He is also certified as a National Register Health Service Psychologist.