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Building Mental and Behavioral Health Resources supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)

By Rebecca Chickey

Achieving a high level of mental and emotional well-being can be harder to achieve for those who feel they need help, but have no idea where or how to seek assistance. Furthermore, when it comes to improving mental health, minority individuals often face a cultural stigma of weakness or inferiority for wanting to get help from mental health specialists.

Since COVID-19 swept across the nation and around the world, much media attention has focused on health care inequities in communities where disproportionate populations of Black and Latinx residents have been impacted by COVID-19. Despite the recent attention on health inequities endured by Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and efforts to close health equity gaps, disparities in behavioral health care within these communities persist.

Findings in a 2018 report by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, showed that U.S. BIPOC communities were less likely to have access to mental health services, less likely to use community mental health services, and more likely to both use emergency departments and receive lower quality care. The lack of cultural competency training and unconscious biases of behavioral health professionals may also serve as another barrier preventing underserved communities from receiving high-quality behavioral and mental health care.

During National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in July, the AHA and its Institute for Diversity and Health Equity (IFDHE) developed several new resources to aid hospitals and health systems in reaching out to communities that lack adequate access to mental and behavioral health care. Resources designed to improve mental and behavioral health equity include:

Plus, our new BIPOC mental health resource webpage is a complete source for best practices developed by AHA member hospitals, educational materials, guidance from federal agencies and additional tools.

Although July focused on BIPOC mental health awareness, it is critical that hospitals and health systems generate awareness of their mental and behavioral health resources and extend outreach services all year long – particularly in communities where people need help taking the first step toward mental health improvements and overall wellness.

Rebecca Chickey is the AHA’s Senior Director of Behavioral Health Services, Field Engagement