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Why students of colour don’t get the mental help they need

no picture High School Student
Anushka Thorat
Member since December 27, 2017
  • 2 Posts
  • Age 16

Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash.

Photo by Joshua Fuller on Unsplash.

Mental illnesses and mental health have been on the back burner in society, and even though substantial progress has been made, there is still a long way to go. Mental health controls both our minds and bodies and yet most people, especially students of colour, don’t get the help they need in combating these disorders.

As a young woman of colour struggling with mental illness herself, I truly believe that the root causes of these issues need to be acknowledged and that reforms need to be implemented to ensure a much healthier and better functioning society.

Cultural mindsets and stigma vary in different ethnicities and races, and a lack of understanding has led to many left feeling unheard or invalidated, discouraging them from seeking out the help they need.

In many cultures, especially among Asian-American families, being mentally ill is seen as something to “get over” quickly or an attention-seeking phase that will soon pass. Many families of colour consider the admittance of having any so-called mental illnesses to be weak or shameful, and the concept of any form of psychotherapy doesn’t quite fit in their mental map of health and disease. These obstacles disincentivize students from ever reaching out or even confiding in their support systems, worsening their mental health.

Moreover, even when students of colour do somehow manage to convince their families or independently reach out, these cultural barriers are often misunderstood or even ignored by the professionals diagnosing them.

Generally, there is trouble recognizing the symptoms of disorders in many patients with mental health problems, but these issues are highlighted and worsened with an incorrect or absent cultural context. Professionals are usually blind to the individually distinctive challenges faced by their minority patients. This further leads to an underdiagnoses that doesn’t fully grasp the impact of their problems and conditions, further preventing these students from getting adequate help.

There are few mental health clinics that specifically cater to the needs of students of colour and a first step toward erasing the hurdles that students of colour face are the provision of culturally sensitive mental health. There also need to be programs that work toward mitigating the mental health stigma in communities of colour, and the establishment of an open environment in high schools and colleges in terms of mental health and therapy.

We absolutely need to begin prioritizing mental health and pay more minute attention to those who don’t have the same access to treatment and help.

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