Getting Involved with Minority Mental Health

JUL. 02, 2018

By Luna Greenstein


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. However, culture, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult.

America’s entire mental health system needs improvement, including when it comes to serving marginalized communities. When trying to access treatment, these communities have to contend with:

  • Language barriers
  • A culturally insensitive system
  • Racism, bias and discrimination in treatment settings
  • Lower quality care
  • Lower chance of health care coverage
  • Stigma from several angles (for being a minority and for having mental illness)

These are all in addition to the usual road blocks. Many cultures also view mental health treatment as a luxury, considering symptoms a “phase” that will eventually pass. These harmful perceptions of mental illness can further isolate individuals who desperately need help.

We can all help ignite change against these disparities and fight stigma this Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. It simply starts with learning more about mental health and informing your community.

Consider Giving a Presentation

Starting conversations about mental health in your community may feel intimidating—especially if your community views mental illness as a personal fault or weakness. But the more we talk about mental illness, the more normalized it will become. And NAMI is here to help!

Consider giving NAMI presentations to your community, like Sharing Hope for the African American community and Compartiendo Esperanza for the Hispanic and Latino communities. These presentations go over the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions as well as how and where to find help. If neither of these presentations fit your background, feel free to use them as models to create your own presentation tailored to your community’s needs.

Emphasize Treatment

Make sure to stress the importance of a culturally competent provider. These mental health professionals integrate your beliefs and values into treatment. To find a provider that does this, you may have to do a significant amount of research. In addition to searching online, you can also ask trusted friends and family for recommendations or ask for referrals from cultural organizations in your community (like your local AKA Chapter).

In your first session, make sure to ask any questions you may have about the professional’s cultural competence. For example:

  • Do you have any experience treating someone from my background?
  • Have you had any cultural competence training?
  • How would you include aspects of my identity into my care?

Be confident when disclosing relevant information about your beliefs, culture, sexual orientation and/or gender identity that could potentially affect your care. Your provider will play a vital role in your treatment, so make sure you feel comfortable and can communicate well with them before committing to them. Remember: If you feel like your provider doesn’t understand you, it’s okay to leave. Cultural competency is very beneficial to effective treatment. It might take a bit of effort to find the right fit, but recovery is worth it.

Share Your Story

When a person experiences symptoms of mental illness, one of the most helpful and comforting feelings is knowing that they’re not alone. It can be incredibly reassuring to know in this moment right now, someone else is going through similar struggles as you are—regardless of where they are, who they are, or how they identify.

If you’re ever feeling isolated or that your community doesn’t understand mental illness, explore story-sharing platforms like Ok2Talk and You Are Not Alone. On these platforms, everyday people write about their deepest struggles with mental illness and their hopes for recovery. If you feel comfortable, post your thoughts and feelings about or experiences with mental illness—it’s rewarding to know you are helping others feel less isolated.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness and stop stigma in diverse communities. It’s time to improve the harsh realities minority communities face when it comes to mental illness treatment. In fact, it’s long overdue.


Make sure to check out the NAMI Blog this July, as we’ll be featuring minority mental health experiences all month long.


Laura Greenstein is communications manager at NAMI.


Note: An earlier version of this blog appeared on in July 2017.


We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.


JUL, 16, 2018 02:32:44 PM
Creating more groups for mental health could and can save a lot of lives. With even having groups you can actually go out and talk to can be a amazing thing for many!🙏

JUL, 11, 2018 10:46:51 PM
Carrie Hawk
I would to inform minorities in our small community that NAMI is open to all and they are welcome to join us. Do you have a press release that could be sent to our local paper? Thank you. Carrie

JUL, 08, 2018 05:37:46 PM
Faye Alladin
My 27 year old son was diagnosed at age 19 with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He simply refuses to take his meds. Says they adversely affect him sexually. He’s been hospitalized once or twice per year, but still hasn’t come to grips that he needs to be on meds. He says I shouldn’t ‘force’ him to take his meds, I should love him unconditionally. I try explaining to him that it’s because that I love him and want the best for him, that I encourage him to take his meds. It’s to no avail. I want/need to help him, but I simply don’t know how. Help please!!!!

JUL, 06, 2018 07:24:13 PM
Zuleima Blanco
I would love to be able to help in any way possible.

JUL, 03, 2018 06:13:39 PM
Juane Tyler
I love to do a presentation and start those conversations in the community.

JUL, 02, 2018 08:12:21 PM
Ressie Griffin, I look for the same thing when I am at the hospitals and counseling for my daughter, who is African American. I feel that the professionals treating her are sensitive and on point, but my experience has been there are not many who look like her in the field. However, I appreciate and am so grateful for all the work they do. This is a very very difficult profession.

JUL, 02, 2018 08:07:48 PM
Louis Hubbard and Yvette Williams. I can totally relate to your problem with the adult children who refuse to get help. It is very difficult. I live in Pennsylvania and I am looking to meet and talk with people for support.

JUN, 25, 2018 10:10:24 PM
I’m a 47 year old Hispanic male. I am schizoaffective. I think this is great. I wouldn’t be able to do a presentation, but I would like to get involved in some way. Thank you

JUN, 25, 2018 06:48:22 PM
Looking for support group and family support group. My so. Is 17 years old and is currently being treated for schizophrenia. We are trying to find the right medication and balance for him. He appears to still be paranoid at times and is very withdrawn.

JUN, 16, 2018 07:18:24 PM
Marcia Moreno
Please include me. I would like to volunteer to help.

APR, 27, 2018 05:05:39 PM
I would like to get involved

APR, 27, 2018 05:05:25 PM
I would like to get involved

APR, 23, 2018 04:13:14 PM
Mike Paul
How can we get involved in the SF Bay/Oakland region?

We look forward to your feedback soon! Also are there event in our region for minorities in May as well?

JUL, 17, 2017 02:48:22 PM
Joe Ann Stafford
I want to get help for my thirty year old son.

JUL, 16, 2017 10:49:44 PM
Yvette Williams
Louis Hubbard I am having the same problem. My daughter is an adult and she refuses help and it's a struggle trying to get her to take her meds. She doesn't believe anything is wrong. I contacted a local support group but it doesn't start up again until the Fall. I feel so alone and helpless...

JUL, 13, 2017 02:49:32 PM
Ressie Quarles Griffin
I am a 62 yr.YOUNG!!! African American woman I am bipolar, diagnosed 15 years ago and would like to help any way I can. This is a subject dear to my heart I have often felt alone and not understood and sometimes just plain old-fashion angry because it is so HARD to find people who look like me in support groups, psychologists, psychiatrists. Anything I can do please let me know.

JUL, 07, 2017 09:30:11 AM
Arrilla W. Bell
I am interested in joining Minority Mental Health. I will contact the AKA group here in Lafayette, Louisiana. I have been a member of NAMI for a year or more. Please allow me to fill out the membership form. Thank God for Minority Mental Health Month.

JUL, 05, 2017 07:14:38 PM
Yes...I would like to do a presentation. Ease have someone contact me as soon as possible via my email address above. I want to join the movement.

JUL, 05, 2017 05:45:39 PM
Louis Hubbard
How do you get help for an adult who refuses to get help?

Submit to the NAMI Blog

We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.

Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.