Did you know that minorities face mental illness at higher rates than their non-minority counterparts? This month is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, an observance recognized by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health. It was established in 2006 to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States.
The American Psychological Association (APA) highlights that ‘racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors including inaccessibility of high-quality mental health care services, the cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health.’
Here at NeighborHealth, we aim to address the stigma surrounding mental health and improve access to these much-needed services that can often be difficult to find or afford for many patients within our minority communities. Here, we discuss this important topic with NeighborHealth behavioral health provider Meagan Martin, MS, LMFT.
Q: Why is it important to raise awareness about mental health in minority communities?
A: We see so many patients from diverse cultures here at NeighborHealth, and the stigma and misconceptions around seeking help are very real in many communities. Patients tell me all the time that they don’t talk about these issues in their cultures or families, and I like to remind them that it’s OK to open up about mental health. It’s important for me to take the opportunity to listen to the patient’s concerns and help them find the words to express those feelings in a way that is both meaningful and helpful to them. For example, instead of saying they’re suffering from anxiety, patients may say “I’ve been feeling really stressed,” when in some cases, there’s a more serious problem that we can help address. It’s our job as behavioral health providers to be mindful of language differences and help patients express their needs using words that make sense to them. Having the opportunity to give my patients the space to talk about mental health in their own way is really powerful, and it’s a gift to help when we can.
Q: Tell us about the behavioral health services offered here at NeighborHealth.
A: We’re proud to have a growing program at NeighborHealth to serve our patients with behavioral health needs. Currently, we have two options for our patients who need access to therapy services. The first is our traditional counseling, which is where our team will work with a patient who might be struggling with depression, anxiety, isolation, or whatever behavioral concerns may be impacting their quality of life. Sessions are generally 45-50 minutes and we take that opportunity to talk with patients in detail about what’s going on in their lives and get to know them on a personal level.
“…I like to think of these sessions as helping patients unpack a heavy backpack—my job is to create a space where they feel safe enough to remove the bag and unpack it—one item at a time, which leaves them feeling lighter over the course of our sessions.”—Meagan Martin, MS, LMFT
We also offer an integrated care consultation – which is a brief appointment (15-20 minutes) that takes place the same day as their medical appointment. During these sessions, we help start some important conversations around mental health that will help us determine if the patient is a good candidate for counseling here, or if they would benefit from another type of support in the community. In either setting, we try to provide real coping skills our patients can put into daily practice – whether it’s breathing techniques, tools for better sleep, etc.
Q: Are you seeing an increased demand for behavioral health services in your practice?
A: Yes, absolutely. There are so few resources in the community to help patients with behavioral health needs, and even fewer that are affordable for patients without insurance. We have seen a significant increase in demand, and as a result, there are plans underway to expand our program. In the short term, we’re hiring a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) who can help provide both integrated care and traditional counseling appointments to better serve the patients of NeighborHealth. Our long-term goal is to add more providers and perhaps consider adding psychiatry to the services we offer. Our goal is just to help as many patients as we possibly can.
To support NeighborHealth’s growing behavioral health program, please consider making a contribution to our Growing for Good campaign. All funds raised will support the continued expansion of NeighborHealth as we aim to meet the growing healthcare needs of our community.
Source: Psychiatry.org – Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations
As a community health provider, NeighborHealth is committed to acknowledging and understanding minority mental health disparities. Oftentimes, asking our patients questions about mental health can be the start of an important and oftentimes overlooked discussion.
In order to better serve you, our clinic is moving in several phases starting late this summer! It’s likely that your next appointment at NeighborHealth Center will be in our new location, which is just around the corner from our current office at 2605 Blue Ridge Road, Suite 225. Our phone number, providers and staff, and the incredible care you’ve come to expect from your NeighborHealth team will remain the same.
Serving Christ by loving our neighbors through excellent,
compassionate, and accessible health care.