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Minorities Face Additional Barriers When Seeking Mental Health Treatment

Maya Pottiger
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July 10, 2018

Though there is widespread stigma surrounding mental health in this country, the minority communities face additional barriers to seeking mental health treatment.

In honor of July being Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, the Voice is drawing attention to those barriers.

The Voice spoke with Catherine Gray, the clinical director of the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency Inc. Here are highlights from the interview.

Q: What are some of the barriers minorities face when seeking mental health treatment?

Gray: One of the biggest ones is around stigma, and that’s not, unfortunately, just for minorities, that’s for anyone seeking mental health treatment. But in our minority communities, the stigma attached to mental health is more significant than in other communities. … It’s unfortunate because the earlier the intervention, the more successful the treatment. When we can address a mental health issue before the symptoms get severe, the outcome is much better. When you have folks that are reluctant to seek assistance, when those symptoms become more severe, the treatment process can take longer.

Q: Are there any other barriers minorities face?

Gray: Our two biggest challenges in our county for behavioral health are transportation and housing. For our homeless population and for our minority population, if you live in the southern part of the county, there are no buses. You can be very isolated. The majority of our services, however, are in the northern end of the county. We do have providers there, but the transportation issues are a lot harder there, as well. A lot of folks don’t have reliable transportation themselves, so if you can’t get there via bus, cabs are expensive. There is AAA Transport, but their hours of operation aren’t always the same as clinic hours.

Q: What about any language barriers?

Gray: For our Spanish-speaking population, we do have clinics that have Spanish-speaking therapists and psychiatrists. If they don’t, they can either use a translation service or they can use a language line. Ideally, you would want somebody who is fluent in that language because things can get lost in translation there.

Q: What services does your agency provide?

Gray: We have a number of clinicians who can sit down with individuals, point them in the right direction and help them make phone calls, and then we can actually follow up with them, as well. We can also look at the barriers they may be experiencing that would prohibit them from going to treatment, transportation being one. If they’re prescribed medication, do they have access to Medicaid to pay for the medication? Do they have access to transportation to get to the pharmacy? There’s a whole bunch of other things. It’s not just getting to the appointment, but getting to all of your follow-ups, as well.

Q: Where else can people get more information about mental health services, especially directed toward minorities?

Gray: One of the other things we always participate in is the Hispanic Health Fair. … It’s probably one of the coolest events. All of the providers coming there, they have immigration services, dental services, immunization services, mental health services, health department services. … You always worry that participants won’t come, but this event is so extremely well-attended that the more we can reach, particularly the Spanish-speaking population, and introduce them to services that are available in the community, the more likely they are going to be to reach out. When you start to normalize behavioral health services as part of your whole wellness, not just as mental health but really as wellness, you stop looking at the person as an illness and really start seeing the person as a whole human.

 

The 2018 Hispanic Wellness Fair will be held September 29 at Heritage Church in Severn from 8:30am to 3:00pm.

The Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency Inc. is a core service agency, not a direct service provider. The agency can connect individuals with direct service providers and point them in the right direction. For more information, call the crisis response line at 410-768-5522 or visit www.networkofcare.org.


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