Monday, July 9, 2012

Mental Health Services Use in Ethnic Minorities

Given July is designated as Minority Mental Health month; I decided to write a post on disparities in mental health. One of the reasons I pursued a Ph.D. in clinical psychology was because as an undergraduate student I felt that the research on mental health concerns in children was limited, specifically as it related to service utilization for ethnic minorities.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities1, less than ½ of adults and 1/3 of children receive the needed mental health treatment. This is alarming given that over time these problems may become worse resulting in poor daily functioning and having a negative impact on relationships. Additionally, mental health difficulties can also impact health outcomes such as chronic diseases.

According to the research ethnic minority populations (e.g., African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American) are less likely to seek help from a mental health professional such as a psychologist. My own research2,3 on child mental health services focuses on examining what are some contributing factors to preventing parents from seeking treatment. The US Surgeons General4 has reported that for ethnic minority groups some of these barriers include financial considerations, racism, and discrimination. Other1, 2 report barriers such as stigma, attitudes, income, mistrust, and lack of health care providers. In my own research, I have found that attitudes toward mental health and mental health stigma are highly important to the lack of service use by ethnic minorities.

Given these disparities in mental health, what can be done to meet the needs of ethnic minorities? Personally, I believe there needs to be increased education about the benefits of psychological treatment. The American Psychological Association, Division 42 (Psychologist in Independent Practice) has developed a video that promotes seeking treatment. See below:

Additional ways to help decrease the stigma around mental health services include:
·         Ensuring that mental health and behavioral health services are covered by insurance
·         Training psychologist to provide culturally sensitive treatments
·         Applying a community based approach to treatment
·         Talk to a doctor about mental health (to increase the referral process)

Note: If you feel the need to seek treatment, you can access the following sites to locate a provider in your area.  

© Copyright 2012 Erlanger A. Turner 


1. Fact Sheet on Mental Health Disparities (

2. Turner, E.A., Heffer, R., & Jensen-Doss, A. (August, 2010). Disparities in Child Mental Health Services: The Role of Ethnicity, Attitudes, and Stigma. Presentation at the American Psychological Association Convention, San Diego, CA.

3.  Turner, E.A., & Liew, J. (2010). Children’s Adjustment and Child Mental Health Service Use: The Role of Parents’ Attitudes and Personal Service Use in an Upper Middle Class Sample. Community Mental Health Journal, 46,3, 231-240.

4. American Psychiatric Association, Minority Mental Health (

5. National Council of Community Behavioral Health (


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  3. It is an established fact that almost two-thirds of all people afflicted with some kind of mental dysfunction do not seek treatment. This is confirmed by the WHO's Global Burden of Disease study.

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