Mental illness affects nearly one quarter of the American population (21% in 2020 and 11% reported worldwide).
As we all make an effort to work towards greater mental health awareness both worldwide and nationwide it becomes important to recognize both the demographic similarities and differences that exist among those who are affected.
Annual prevalence of mental illness among U.S. adults, by demographic group:
Non-Hispanic Asian: 13.9%
Non-Hispanic white: 22.6%
Non-Hispanic black or African-American: 17.3%
Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native: 18.7%
Non-Hispanic mixed/multiracial: 35.8%
Non-Hispanic Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: 16.6%
Hispanic or Latino: 18.4%
Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual: 47.4%
That said, July is now recognized at National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
All too often mental illness is viewed as a “diagnosis of privilege,” the thought being that those who lack financial and cultural resources “don’t have the time” to be sad or sick. If they do “call in sick,” they are considered “lazy” or “weak.”
This is simply not true.
The research shows that minorities and those who have less access to healthcare suffer just as much, if not more, from mental illness, but simply (again) do not have the resources for proper diagnosis or treatment. Because so many studies suggest minority groups show higher levels of anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health disorders, it is essential that we work hard to combat, society’s deep-rooted prejudice towards such stigmatized minority groups, recognizing that such stigma IS a major cause of feelings of rejection, estrangement, and harassment.
Creating awareness for both minorities and mental health in the month of July is an effort to bring attention to the health experiences in communities of black, indigenous, and all people of color, considering the inequities and systemic and historical barriers that negatively impact a person’s mental health. The concerns and traumas faced by the marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised people are unique and need to be addressed as such.
This is an important factor for discussion when it comes to veterans’ mental health as well.
Although the list below is not exhaustive, the most prevalent diagnosed conditions in America are currently:
Major Depressive Episode: 8.4% (21 million people)
Schizophrenia: <1% (estimated 1.5 million people)
Bipolar Disorder: 2.8% (estimated 7 million people)
Anxiety Disorders: 19.1% (estimated 48 million people)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: 3.6% (estimated 9 million people)
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: 1.2% (estimated 3 million people)
Borderline Personality Disorder: 1.4% (estimated 3.5 million people)
The origin of National Minority Health Month dates back to the establishment of National Negro Health Week by Booker T. Washington in 1915. In 2002, National Minority Health Month received support from the U.S. Congress with a concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 388) that “a National Minority Health and Health Disparities Month should be established to promote educational efforts on the health problems currently facing minorities and other health disparity populations.”
Thus, take this month to embrace awareness for your own mental health and that of those around you, and encourage equal access and quality care for everyone!