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Breaking Barriers: Why Mental Health for Everyone Matters

In our journey through life, our mental well-being is as important as our physical health. Just as we care for our bodies by eating well and exercising, we also need to care for our minds to feel our best. 

However, for many in minority communities, focusing on mental health concerns can feel like stepping into uncharted territory. These racial, ethnic, gender and sexual minority groups, which include people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, immigrants and others, often face unique challenges that hinder them from seeking help and support for mental health issues.

“Minority communities have a lower probability of receiving mental health care when compared to the overall U.S. population,” said Eddie Taylor, PhD, a clinical psychologist with Banner Health. “This makes the number of people in minority communities who actually receive mental health care a relatively small number.”

One of the biggest barriers to receiving mental health care in minority communities is the stigma surrounding it. In this case, stigma refers to the negative attitudes and beliefs that society holds toward mental illness. This stigma can lead to feelings of shame, fear and isolation, preventing people from seeking the help they need.

Today is the day to break down the barriers that may prevent you or a loved one from getting the care you need. With the help of Dr. Taylor, here are a few of the stigmas surrounding mental health and how we can overcome these barriers together.

Factors contributing to stigma

Several factors contribute to the stigma surrounding mental health in minority communities:

1. Cultural beliefs

Cultural beliefs are deeply ingrained beliefs, values and norms shared by members of a particular cultural or ethnic group. They help shape how people see mental health. In some cultures, mental illness is seen as a sign of weakness or moral failure, which may be why some people avoid seeking help.

Parenting practices can also add to this stigma. Some cultures expect parents to focus on having strong and successful children, which may make them hesitant to talk about or get help for mental health issues in their family. 

“Perhaps parents feel like they have done something wrong in their parenting,” Dr. Taylor said. “Children and teens may have been told that there is nothing wrong with them and that they need to ‘stop talking like that.’

Similarly, athletes may be told to “shake it off and get back in the game” or are “just having a bad day.” 

“It becomes just as difficult for the people around the person needing mental health care to support it than it is for the person in need of help to receive it,” Dr. Taylor said.

2. Lack of awareness

Sometimes, people may not know much about mental health problems. This lack of knowledge can make them believe things that may not be true about mental illnesses, which can cause them to treat others unfairly.  

3. Historical trauma

Discrimination, racism and marginalization can contribute to mistrust of all health services in minority communities. Past injustices and systemic inequalities may make it harder to get help.

4. Socioeconomic factors

Factors like poverty, unemployment and lack of access to health care, such as lack of transportation, technology or insurance, can affect mental health too. Limited financial resources may prevent people from seeking professional help or buying needed medicine. This can make their mental health problems worse. 

5. Lack of mental health providers

Some people in minority communities may not access mental health services because they can’t find therapists who look like them or have experience or knowledge of their culture and worldview. This can make them feel like their mental health isn’t taken seriously. Plus, long waits to see a provider can make it even tougher to get help.

Breaking the stigma: Mental health for all

Breaking the stigma surrounding mental health in minority communities is essential for promoting health and healing. Dr. Taylor shared some ways we can break the stigma and encourage those in minority communities to seek help:

Increase education and awareness

Education is a powerful tool for reducing mental health stigma. Health care providers, schools and religious groups are good places to start when it comes to changing conversations about mental health. 

“People have been more comfortable talking about mental health when they are presented with an understanding of what mental health or illness looks like, how it can be treated and the resources that are available,” Dr. Taylor said. “Conversations with parents, teachers and community leaders can open avenues of dialogue with people to become supportive of the need to start talking about mental health.”

  • Schools can provide in-service or professional development days to allow faculty and staff to become aware of mental health symptoms and resources available. Parents can be offered similar informational opportunities during parent-teacher conferences.
  • Religious groups can help their communities and neighbors by engaging in conversations with medical professionals about mental health. 

“Athletes, celebrities and influential personalities like Coco Gauff and Kendrick Lamar are beginning to make mental health on par with physical health,” Dr. Taylor said. “They are talking more about the struggles and challenges faced by avoiding it and the successes that they have experienced after treatment of their mental health.”

Change the primary care setting 

Providers can begin conversations with all patients during annual physicals, routine appointments or follow-up appointments. 

“The PHQ-9 is a standard health questionnaire that will give a generalized view of a patient's mental health,” Dr. Taylor said. “That questionnaire can start the conversation between the patient and their health care provider about ways to reduce stress and spot the signs of poor mental health.”

Improve access to culturally sensitive resources

Mental health services should be accessible, affordable, culturally sensitive and inclusive of the needs of minority communities. “It is just as important to have experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the areas where support is needed,” Dr. Taylor said. 

This includes providing services in multiple languages, understanding cultural beliefs and respecting diverse backgrounds.

Lead by example

The words we use when discussing mental health matter. Be open to sharing your personal story about mental health. 

Listen and support those who may be struggling with their mental health. Use words that are respectful and don't make people feel bad or ashamed. 

Do say: 

“Thank you for opening up to me.”
"I know talking about mental health is tough, but your feelings are important.”
“I’m here for you.”
“You aren’t alone.”
“Taking care of your mental health is important.”

Don’t say:

“Just snap out of it.”
“It’s all in your head.”
“Just think positive.”
“You don’t need therapy. Just try harder.”

“When people express thoughts or concerns about their emotions, feelings and thoughts, it should be supported and resources should be provided,” Dr. Taylor said. “People need to know that there is professional help and caring providers who are prepared and equipped to begin the process of health and healing.”

You can contact your insurance company for a list of mental health care providers, ask your provider or religious organization for referrals or recommendations, or search the internet. Family and friends may also have names of mental health providers.

The following is a list of national resources that offer support and awareness for minority communities:


Several factors (such as cultural beliefs, limited access to resources, historical trauma and lack of access) hinder people in minority communities from getting the mental health care they need and deserve. 

We can work together to break the stigma around mental health in our communities. By sharing information, being respectful and supportive of others and making it easier to talk about mental health, we can create a better and more understanding environment for everyone. 

Remember, it’s OK to ask for help when you need it. Speak to a trusted person, your provider or a Banner Health specialist. Everyone deserves to feel good about their mental health.

For more related topics, check out:

Behavioral Health Anxiety Depression LGBTQ