Mental Health Stigmas in Minority Communities

Fall 2018 was the worst academically and mentally. As I was struggling with my heavy course load, I began isolating myself from others and found it hard to get out of bed to be productive. During my productive moments, I would somehow experience anxiety attacks that hindered my progress and grades. Though my parents understood the importance of mental health, they initially thought I was lazy and not putting in any effort in all my classes. It took the middle of the next semester for my parents to realize that it wasn’t laziness and were able to get me help. I have learned my triggers and currently take medication but I wish my parents didn't assume my poor academic performance was just because I was “lazy”. It made it harder for me to open up then but it’s easier now.


Many of my friends who are minorities at Tech - as well as friends from church - have had similar experiences to mine but their parents refuse to acknowledge their mental health at all. Thankfully, a good amount of friends seeked professional help on their own and feel better thanks to it. 


According to an article in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, higher levels of perceived stigma in racial and ethnic minority community prevents members of those communities from getting the help they need, even if they know they need it. This issue of getting adequate treatment is unsurprisingly rooted in racism but also the stigma of mental illness in such communities. In Nigeria, for example, many people believe that mental illness is caused by evil spirits and go to religious centers to pray instead of getting medical treatment.


Another example would be language barrier in mental health facilities. Especially in immigrant communities, not being able to speak or translate the language of the patient getting treatment makes it harder to get help and receive a diagnosis.


There are many ways we can improve the stigma in ethnic communities but the main way is discussing what is going on with members in our community. One way that Tech does this is community circles that allow members of these communities to discuss the stigma. Another way to do it in churches and other religious places. By talking about mental health, it will be easier for minorities to seek help and feel comfortable & supported doing so.


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