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Minority Families and Mental Health Awareness

It is a compound effect, i.e., the mental health challenges and crises confronting minority households. The National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI) estimates that one in five adults and one in six youths in the US will suffer from a mental illness annually. This is the stark reality for many within communities of color, not because of inherent flaws or deficits unique to the demography but primarily the resultant impact from the interplay of macrosystems.

Minority households, particularly those of African descent, have long faced many social challenges that snowball into emotional and mental upheaval for the individuals and/or families involved. In recent times we observed how communities of color were disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths from the disease and ensuing higher percentages of individuals reporting symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, when compared to their white counterpart. Many pre-existing factors led to these outcomes, including inadequate access to healthcare and marginal support provided by healthcare services.

One important factor that leads to the complexities centering on mental health challenges concerning minority households is pervasive fatherlessness. Many children within communities of color grow up in homes with fathers in absentia. A June 2017 article published by NPR puts this number at 57% amongst African-Americans and 31% amongst Hispanics. The chronic fallout from this dynamic is far-reaching. Often children in this state battle depressive and/or anxiety disorders and suicidal ideation. The mothers themselves are likely to struggle just as much, with stress being the primary precipitant.

Other factors that underscore the effect of macrosystems on minority households, which often upend emotional and mental wellness; including issues with racism and discrimination, lack of and/or inaccessibility to adequate resources and finances, community violence, and inter-generational trauma. One or a combination of any of these factors often works to induce levels of oppression that inevitably undermine the mental health of individuals who are also victims.

The comfort level associated with openly discussing mental health concerns remains marginal for minority households compared to other communities. Stigmas, misinformation, miseducation, and narratives centering on the need to be “strong and resilient” and/or not air a family’s “dirty laundry” often dominate. Consequently, even though support might be readily available, many suffer in silence.

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