Addressing mental health disparities | PhillyVoice

Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the most difficult and
chaotic experiences of my life. I was thrust into a new work-from-home
routine while having to care for my three-year-old toddler at the same
time. My husband and father had to go to work throughout the pandemic, so I
spent every day concerned for their health and safety.

Some days were worse than others, and I’ll never forget one particularly
challenging day. My husband came home and immediately noticed that I was
frustrated and overwhelmed. While he tried to comfort me, I just wanted to
be left alone. Once I’d calmed down, he suggested that talking with a
therapist might help with my stress.

I was so offended. Without even thinking about it, I yelled, “I
don’t need help. I’m not crazy!”

After a few minutes, I started thinking about what I’d said and regretted
it. First, I felt bad for my husband who was just trying to help. Second, I
wondered why I reacted so negatively. I am not opposed to mental health

Then it hit me: I was just repeating what I’d heard so frequently growing

The mentality around mental health

Growing up in a Hispanic household, mental health wasn’t something we
discussed or prioritized. I was expected to “tough it out” and just deal
with my issues or problems on my own. Unlike going to the doctor for a
physical ailment, getting help for mental health wasn’t an option.

In fact, mental health treatment was viewed as something for “gente que son
loco” (people who are crazy). Honestly, a lot of people in my family
dismissed mental health professionals altogether.

Similarly, my husband — who is African American — also grew up with a
negative perception of seeking help for mental health. Apparently, it
wasn’t something his family talked about either. He was taught that he just
needed to “Man up” whenever he encountered a difficulty or challenge.

As we’ve gotten older (and hopefully wiser), we’ve both realized that
mental health matters! It’s an important part of your overall health that
needs to be taken care of. Most importantly, there’s no shame in seeking
and getting help — that’s what we’ll be teaching our daughter.

Let’s talk facts

In many minority groups, there’s still a stigma around talking about mental
health. On top of that, inequalities in mental health care in minority
communities make things more difficult. According to

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 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
• 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.

In honor of National Minority Mental Health month, it’s time to start
breaking down these barriers, especially in minority communities. Let’s
start with some

mental health myth busting.

Myth: Mental health problems don’t affect me.

Mental health problems are actually very common and can affect anyone.

one of every five people will experience a mental health condition

in a given year. These include anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.

While some illnesses have a genetic risk, mental illness affects people
of all ages, races, and income levels, whether or not there is a family

A person is either

mentally healthy or mentally ill.


A person who is generally mentally healthy may experience emotional
problems, changes in behavior, or have strained and unhealthy relationships
with others. A person who is diagnosed with a mental illness may experience
moments of clarity and be highly functional. The presence of illness does
not always impede upon one’s ability to live a meaningful and fulfilling

Myth: Mental illness is a

sign of weakness. People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard

Mental illness is not caused by personal weakness or laziness,
nor can it be cured by positive thinking or willpower.

Mental illnesses create distress, don’t go away on their own, and are real
health problems. Proper treatment is needed to get better.

Myth: Mental

illness isn’t real.

No one would choose to have a mental illness, just as no one would choose
to have a physical illness. The causes for mental health conditions are
intensively studied and they are real. For anyone living with a mental
health condition, their specific symptoms may not always be visible to an
untrained observer. It can be challenging to relate to what people with
mental health conditions are going through, but that doesn’t mean that
their condition isn’t real.

Myth: People with mental health problems are

violent and unpredictable.

Most people with mental illness are not violent. You probably know someone
with a mental health problem and don’t even realize it because so many
people with mental health problems are highly active and productive members
of our communities.

Take action

Now that you know the facts, there’s no need to suffer in silence or be
ashamed. It’s important to talk about mental health to remove the stigma
and even more important to take care of your mental health as part of your
overall health.

Get help now

You’re not alone — none of us are perfect. We all experience moments of
mental health distress. The important thing is getting help when you need

If you continue to experience distress, it’s important to

recognize that you may need professional help.

Therapy, and in some cases medication, may help treat your condition. If
you don’t know where to start, contact your primary care provider.

If you or someone you know needs immediate support,

Healthy Minds Philly

has compiled a list of resources to help you connect with professional,
peer, social, and community support. Check it out because your mental
health matters! Spread the word.

Addressing mental health disparities

As the region’s largest health insurance organization, Independence Blue
Cross (Independence) is committed to addressing health disparities and the
social determinants of health that impact minority communities. Here are
some of things that Independence is doing across the community to fight
health disparities:

• Know Your Mind. Independence launched a new mental health public awareness campaign to
educate the community about symptoms of depression and anxiety, and how to
help themselves and others during these emotionally challenging times. The
campaign includes a special focus on the millennial generation (ages
25-40), one-third of whom have a behavioral health condition.

• The

Well City Challenge. The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia and Independence launched the
Well City Challenge to address Philadelphia’s millennial health and mental
health challenges.

This content was originally published on

IBX Insights.

About Veronica Serrano

Mother. Wife. TV junkie. Shopaholic. That’s me in a nutshell – outside of
work. As a copywriter at IBX, I enjoy learning about the health and
wellness topics that I write about and hope to incorporate more healthy
habits into my daily life to give me the energy to keep up with my baby

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