The Bridgeway View

Editor Cory Storch, CEO

Our own experiences at Bridgeway regarding minority mental health is backed up by information published by the American Psychiatric Association – the cultural stigma surrounding mental illness in minority communities is a barrier to seeking help for symptoms of mental illness. The other notable barrier is inaccessibility to services. Research from the American Psychiatric Association shows that only 31% of Black and Hispanic adults, and 22% of Asian adults whose lives are challenged by mental health conditions receive services.

National Minority Mental Health Month

National Minority Mental Health Month was instituted in July, 2008. Since then, national organizations like the American Psychiatric Association, Mental Health America, Mental Health Association, and NAMI, have increased information and resources specifically designed to reach minority communities.

Mark Williams, Vice Chair of Bridgeway’s Board of Trustees, serves on the NAMI NJ Board, as well as on NAMI NJ’s AACT NOW Committee – African American Community Together – Now, NAMI’s Multicultural Mental Health Outreach Committee. Mark says “Those of us in positions of influence and access to resources need to work to ensure that no one struggles with the symptoms of mental illness due to cultural stigma, or lack of access to help. Bridgeway has several central and northern NJ locations in communities where minority groups dominate the population. As we speak, our Elizabeth Partial Care facility is beginning to offer outpatient substance abuse services which are sorely needed in Union County. This is a first for us. Now our job is to get the word out to the community.”

Despite his many years of experience and education in behavioral health, Mark continues to struggle on an emotional level with the fact that there is an alarming rise in the suicide rate among black men and boys in recent years. In addition to the obvious factors of ongoing challenges that plague all minority groups, including those who live in very rural areas, Mark points out that the African American community suffers disproportionately from lack of hope and the effects of toxic masculinity. Mark explains “Toxic masculinity among black men describes the pervasive high expectation to ‘man up’ and ‘fight it out’. Such historical patterns of cultural expectations don’t leave much room for self-care. Resilience against cultural stigma juxtaposed against the desire to not appear weak within a historical atmosphere of emasculating African American males is a subject that must be addressed if we are to address mental health issues in black communities in America.”

Many of the mental health struggles faced by minority groups begin early in life. Inadequate mental health resources in our schools translates into less success for all minority groups. Inability of elementary education to recognize the stresses that minority groups experience, including immigrant and LGBTQ students, contributes to their inability to reach their potential and become fully contributing members of the community.

Minority Mental Health Month in 2019 is an opportunity to think about how to use the tools at our disposal to eliminate cultural stigma, and ensure access to mental health services to a wide range of underserved minority communities, including students, those who may identify as part of the LGBTQ community, immigrant groups, and others who are often marginalized.

This month, Bridgeway’s social media sites and messaging will focus on stigma-busting and awareness of services in minority communities. You can help us by joining our online community, and sharing our mental health messages.

July 11th, 2019

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