NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nearly one in five adults, or about 53 million people, lives with a mental, emotional or behavioral disorder in the United States.1 However, not all people are diagnosed and treated at the same rate. This leads to disparities in mental health treatment and diagnosis, says AmeriHealth Caritas, a leader in healthcare solutions for those who need it most and an advocate for holistic care.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, black adults are also less likely to be offered evidence-based drug therapy or psychotherapy, compared to the general population. They are also less likely to receive guideline-compliant care and less frequently included in mental health research, compared to whites.2
“The mental health care system was not designed for everyone,” said Dr. Yavar Moghimi, physician lead for behavioral health for AmeriHealth Caritas. “Provider biases and systemic barriers mean that many Black people feel that treatment will not help them.
Challenges include the need for a more diverse behavioral health workforce as well as a lack of cultural competency, or the skills, behaviors and attitudes needed to work effectively with different cultural groups. This can lead to misdiagnosis and improper treatment and cause patient distrust.3
“Finding a mental health care provider who can include an individual’s unique culture, beliefs and values in their care is important for successful treatment,” Moghimi explained.
Barriers faced by vulnerable populations when seeking mental health care and diagnosis can have significant consequences, especially in non-white and marginalized communities. In 2019, suicide became the second leading cause of death among black adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24,4 and black women remain one of the most undertreated American populations for depression.5
Moghimi recommends that patients ask themselves several questions to best assess whether a mental health provider is the right fit and can provide culturally competent care:
Does the provider ask questions about your problems in the context of your social network, such as family or friends, other members of your community?
Does the provider ask you what you think are the causes of your problems?
Does the provider ask questions about the most important aspects of your background or identity and whether they make a difference to your problem (ie discrimination)?
Does the provider ask about any barriers that have prevented you from getting the help you need, including stigma or social determinants of health?
If there are differences in your background, does the provider ask you what your concerns are about those differences and what your expectations are?
These questions are some examples of what culturally competent mental health care providers should ask when trying to provide appropriate care in the context of patients’ culture and the inequities that may be part of their daily lives. .
About AmeriHealth Caritas
AmeriHealth Caritas is a national leader in healthcare solutions for those who need it most. Operating in 12 states and the District of Columbia, AmeriHealth Caritas serves approximately 5 million Medicaid, Medicare and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Health Insurance Marketplace® members through its integrated managed care products, benefits management pharmaceuticals and specialty pharmaceutical services, and behavioral health services. Based in Pennsylvania, AmeriHealth Caritas is a mission-driven organization with nearly 40 years of experience serving low-income and chronically ill populations. For more information, visit www.amerihealthcaritas.com.
1 “Mental illness,” National Institute of Mental Health, 2022, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.
2 “Mental Health Disparities: African Americans” American Psychiatric Association, 2017, psychiatry.org/File%20Library/Psychiatrists/Cultural-Competency/Mental-Health-Disparities/Mental-Health-Facts-for-African-Americans.pdf
3 “Identity and Cultural Dimensions: Blacks/African Americans”, National Alliance on Mental Illnesshttps://www.nami.org/Your-Journey/Identity-and-Cultural-Dimensions/Black-African-American
4 “Mental and Behavioral Health – African Americans,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, 2021, minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/browse.aspx?lvl=4&lvlid=24.
5 Tamara Nelson, et al., “Do I really need to go see someone? Perceptions of Black Women on Seeking Help for Depression,” Journal of Black Psychology, Flight. 46, no. 4, 2020, p. 263–286.