Disparities in mental health: How to support BIPOC communities

By Regence
July 20, 2023
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July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as BIPOC Mental Health Month. It offers a platform to raise awareness of the unique mental health struggles that marginalized racial and ethnic communities face in the United States. By highlighting these disparities, we can challenge stigma and advocate for equitable access to mental health resources.

According to Mental Health America, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations are faced with disproportionate levels of historical trauma and displacement that can challenge their ability to thrive in their environments, disrupting mental health and emotional well-being. The experience of, or being witness to, racial discrimination and violence can cause stress and racial trauma. A sense of belonging and inclusion in communities is vital for well-being and mental health.

Challenges accessing care

Many people from underserved racial and ethnic communities have difficulty accessing mental health care. In 2021, it is estimated that only 39 percent of Black or African American adults, 25 percent of Asian American adults, and 36 percent of Hispanic/Latino adults with any mental illness were treated, compared to 52 percent of non-Hispanic white adults.

This can be due to many reasons. Cultural stigma, language barriers and limited access to affordable care create significant obstacles to seeking and receiving adequate mental health support. It is also challenging to find culturally informed providers. Underrepresentation of BIPOC mental health professionals exacerbate these disparities. Consequently, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation often go unrecognized and untreated.

Working together as a community

To promote mental health equity among underserved communities, it is essential to take collective action. Here are some key steps we can take:

  • Improving access to culturally competent care: Collaborate with community organizations, mental health professionals, and health care providers to expand access to culturally competent mental health services. Telehealth options and outreach programs can play a vital role in reaching individuals in underserved areas.
  • Promoting DEI and cultural competency: Provide cultural competency training to employees, health care providers, and staff members to ensure they possess the necessary knowledge and skills to address the unique mental health needs of diverse communities.
  • Supporting community partnerships: Foster partnerships with local organizations, policymakers, and advocacy groups to advocate for policies that prioritize mental health equity and allocate resources to reduce disparities. Engage in community initiatives to support mental health and well-being.
  • Employee support: Establish employee assistance programs (EAPs) that prioritize mental health resources, support networks, and educational opportunities. Create a workplace culture that encourages open conversations about mental health and offers resources for seeking help.

By coming together as a community, fostering understanding, and providing support, we can work toward creating a more equitable and supportive society where everyone can thrive mentally, emotionally, socially and physically.

We’re here to help

If you or your loved one needs emotional support or mental health care, we can help you find the behavioral health care option that fits your needs. Most of our health plans offer virtual mental health treatment options from providers such as AbleTo Therapy+Doctor on DemandTalkspaceCharlie Health and more. No referral is needed – you can visit the provider website and fill out their intake form for an appointment. 

Regence also offers access to in-person and virtual substance use disorder treatment providers that can help people deal with grief in healthier ways. Providers such as Boulder CareEleanor Health (WA only) and Hazelden Betty Ford offer many different treatment options. If your employer has an employee assistance program (EAP), your use of the program is confidential and at low or no cost. 

In addition to the broad range of traditional and virtual mental health providers, most Regence members have access to specialized behavioral health care for those seeking help for eating disorders (Equip) and obsessive-compulsive disorders (nOCD). 

We encourage you to visit these providers’ websites or call our customer service team at the number listed on your member ID card to verify which virtual care and traditional behavioral health options are available through your health plan. Regence also provides free language services to people whose primary language is not English, such as: qualified interpreters and information written in other languages.

Remember 988 – the new National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. When people call, text, or chat 988, they will be connected to trained counselors who will listen, understand how their problems are affecting them, provide support, and connect them to resources if needed. Callers also have the option to select lines that offer specialized support, including a veterans and military families line, an LGBTQ+ line, an American Indian and Alaska Native line (exclusive to Washington State), interpretation for over 240 languages and dialects and a newly launched Spanish chat and text option.