Minority Groups Often Avoid Mental Health Care
Minority groups, concerned that therapy represents a "white" or "elitist institution that will abuse them" or "mislabel" them as "crazy" or "paranoid," often avoid discussing their mental health problems with professionals, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. For example, African Americans "tend to turn" to their families or church ministers for "emotional guidance and support"; for many gays and lesbians, psychology "evokes a history of being forcibly institutionalized or drugged" to "cure" their sexuality; and Hispanics often face language barriers. The Inquirer reports that many members of minority groups "make special efforts" to find a therapist of the same ethnic background whom they "feel can better understand their experiences of racism, discrimination and minority culture." In addition, gays and lesbians often find therapists who can "relate to their situation as a sexual minority." But because there are "relatively few" minority psychologists and psychiatrists, demand often "outstrips supply," the Inquirer reports. In addition, managed care requirements and clinic procedures can "make it difficult" for patients to find a therapist with a similar background. According to the Inquirer, the cost of therapy also may play a role for minorities who lack health insurance and even those who have health coverage. Monica Sweeney, medical director of Health Watch, a national not-for-profit group that hopes to improve minority health care, said, "We're talking about multiple levels of barriers, starting with (minorities') built-in prejudices against mental illness and being referred to a psychiatrist." Sweeney added, "The second level is not having the appropriate people to send them to. The third is not having primary care doctors treat those they can treat. ... Then we get to health insurance as a barrier. It comes down to being a very difficult path for a person who is a minority" (Feibel, Philadelphia Inquirer, 12/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.