July is Minority Mental Health Month, and with NSU’s diverse population, it’s important to recognize how minorities’ mental health is affected. As stated on the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) website, “Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background.”
While anyone can experience a mental illness, access to mental health treatment can be made more difficult because of background and identity. Established in 2008, Minority Mental Health Month has started changing this, making access easier for minorities.
“Minority communities face a number of mental health issues, but many times, they go unseen. This can be because of the individual’s culture or even the presentation of the symptoms of certain mental illnesses. Some of the mental health issues faced by minority communities can include trauma, which in itself can be quite multifaceted. [This can include] being a racial, sexual and/or gender minority, [as well as] alcohol and/or substance abuse and dependence. Both treated and untreated mental illness [can include] anxiety, depression and psychosis,” said Shanice Anderson, a psychology trainee and the community outreach coordinator of the Ethnic Minority Association Of Graduate Students (EMAGS).
Culture plays a huge role in the mental health awareness of minority communities. The understanding of mental illnesses may not be as prevalent in some cultures as they are in others. This factor also plays a role in how mental illnesses are dealt with in different cultures. Oftentimes, mental health is also viewed as a weakness in minority communities, leading to the silence of mental illnesses among individuals, which can be detrimental.
“Being in South Florida, we are aware that there is a very large immigrant community. Culturally, for many within the immigrant population, mental health is viewed as a taboo or a figment of the supernatural, leading to the disbelief that mental health even exists… Despite the changing times and various generations of immigrants within a family, many still believe that mental illness can be ‘prayed away’ or is temporary, leaving many to hide their mental health issues and go untreated… Luckily, research has shown that 2nd and 3rd generation minorities are becoming more aware of mental health, what it is and what they should do when they need help. So, we are heading in the right direction,” said Anderson.
Within the diverse community that makes up NSU, EMAGS helps to bring awareness to the mental health disparities within multicultural groups. The association not only provides students a safe space to discuss their mental health, but also provides mental health resources like programs, events and outreaches for those within the community.
“EMAGS really works to bring awareness to multicultural issues within the mental health field via meetings, programs, events and outreach. Our hope is, through bringing this awareness, we
can help our community and create culturally competent clinicians. My job really is to put together outreach opportunities for our students. Our outreach can be anything from beach clean-ups to community drive-in therapy… My hope this upcoming academic year is for EMAGS to be more known by the undergraduate community and other colleges of the university,” said Anderson.
Given the melting pot that is NSU as well as the U.S., the mental health of minority communities is something we should always shed light on. Regardless of where we are from, we are all one people, and in order to become our best selves, it is crucial to prioritize all our mental health.