CHICAGO – Leading into World Mental Health Day on October 10, state Rep. Curtis J. Tarver II, D-Chicago, is bringing attention to the disparities in mental health care services for African Americans.
“We must focus on the importance of maintaining good mental health. In order for this to be obtainable, the quality of mental health services and access to these services must improve for minority populations,” said Tarver. “The challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the continuing effects of bearing witness to racism and violence have only further highlighted the need for equitable mental health care access.”
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), although rates of mental illness in African Americans are similar to those of the general population, only one-in-three African Americans in need of mental health care service receive it. The APA also found that African Americans often receive poorer quality care and lack access to culturally competent mental health care. The lack of cultural awareness and understanding by health care providers contributes to under diagnosis and misdiagnosis of mental illness in people from ethnically diverse populations.
Tarver is urging mental health care providers to adopt solutions recommended by the American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity. These solutions include recruiting mental health care workers that reflect local demographics, increased anti-bias cultural trainings and developing partnerships with community organizations to increase awareness of mental health services.
“For generations the Black community has had issues gaining access to quality services relating to mental health. We must make intentional efforts to correct these disparities,” said Tarver. “Mental health is just as important as physical health. Just as healthcare providers are leading initiatives to curb racial bias within physical medicine, we need them to commit to delivering equitable mental health services.”