A State of Thoughts: Psychological well being assets out there for underserved teams

Bryan Busch is a licensed mental health consultant at Cedar Rapids. He also works at Folience, the parent company of The Gazette. (Bryan Busch)

Several important dialogues, movements and changes are currently taking place in the social landscape of our country. Many of these conversations focus on the rights and freedoms of historically disenfranchised groups, including women, LGBTQ +, African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and others. And perhaps now more than ever, both in number and volume, people from all backgrounds are showing up to support these important groups. From Pride parades to Black Lives Matter protests, women’s marches and rallies to protect indigenous lands, people across cultures, races, ethnicities, religions, genders, sexualities and more come together to support one another.

Unfortunately, the opposite remains. These qualities, which help us to recognize our uniqueness, can and have been used to separate us. In the mental health world, there are differences in things like mental illness rates and access to adequate care based on these very characteristics. While recognizing the realities of underserved populations and working to promote equality and inclusion is always important, we are in the midst of a great opportunity to put this issue in the spotlight.

As many know, June is Pride Month. From the Stonewall Riots in 1969 to federal legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 and to this day, Pride organizations have sought to break down prejudice in support of the LGBTQ + community. Part of that challenge is addressing the mental health of LGBTQ + people. It is estimated that approximately 4.5 percent of the adult population in the United States identify as LGBTQ +. Shockingly, nearly 40 percent of these people said they had had a mental illness in the past year, compared to just 20 percent of the general adult population.

Being LGBTQ + is not a mental illness. Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer does not in any way imply any mental illness that results from or leads to such. The increased rate of mental illness suggests that LGBTQ + people are exposed to an increased risk of discrimination, harassment, fear and traumatic events due to individual and systemic abuse.

Fortunately, there are local resources available to support the mental health of the people in the LGBTQ + community. Organizations like PFLAG Cedar Rapids, One Iowa, and Tanager Place’s LGBTQ Youth Center provide all the resources, support, and events for members, families, and allies of the LGBTQ + community.

July is known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, launched in 2008 to increase awareness of mental illness and access to treatment among minorities. Perhaps less familiar to many, the efforts highlighted during the month are important as the unique mental health challenges faced by minorities are often overlooked. Things like racism and discrimination are in themselves a very real form of trauma.

Racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities are less likely to receive adequate diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and are less likely to have access to quality mental health care compared to their majority peers. Members of minorities are also often faced with cultural stigmatization related to mental health care, lack of access to various providers, lack of culturally competent providers and possibly also a lack of insurance.

There are also valuable resources in our communities to support these minorities. Places like the Linn County Mental Health Access Center, Foundation 2, Abbe Community Mental Health, and numerous mental health providers support people of all backgrounds.

Diversity of all kinds makes our communities stronger. While there are many traits that make us unique as individuals and in our own human experience, we can all choose to support one another on the path to greater mental health and wellbeing.

Bryan Busch is a licensed mental health consultant at Cedar Rapids. He also works at Folience, the parent company of The Gazette. He can be reached at [email protected]

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