“The mental health system has not kept pace with the diverse needs of racial and ethnic minorities, often underserving or inappropriately serving them. Specifically, the system has neglected to incorporate respect or understanding of the histories, traditions, beliefs, languages, and value systems of culturally diverse groups.”
– Final Report of the President’s New Freedom Commission for Mental Health, 2003
Even though most of the things we need to be mentally healthy are universal — like safe housing, supportive relationships, and good health care – a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health care just isn’t enough.
We know that people from ethnic and cultural communities are, in general, less likely to receive necessary mental health services, and those who are in treatment often receive poorer-quality care. Other groups like veterans, LGBTQ communities or people who live in rural areas may be at elevated risk, have less access to resources or feel isolated.
Why the difference in outcomes for members of these communities? Many factors likely play a role including socioeconomic differences, stigma toward people with mental health issues within the community itself, as well as the fear of experiencing a double burden of discrimination based on one’s race and mental health condition. Those who do seek help also may have difficulty obtaining mental health care from professionals who speak their language and/or understand and respect their cultural values.
But there is reason for hope as well: new approaches to healing and supporting people in times of distress, as well as changing conversations about mental health, have been developed by California’s many ethnic and cultural communities. In addition, leaders from five of these groups outlined by the California Reducing Disparities Project, have created resources to help change attitudes and improve mental health outcomes in a way that is meaningful to each community.
Looking for more?
You can find even more resources created by national, state, community based organizations, and community leaders. Learn more.
Do you work with people from Diverse Communities?
There is a comprehensive catalog of resources and tools for professionals and Diverse Community leaders. Search the CalMHSA Catalogue.
 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2001). Mental health: Culture, race, and ethnicity. A supplement to Mental health: A report of the surgeon general. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieve from [source].
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