Mental health used to be a taboo subject but has received renewed focus over the last several years. In the United States, around 18% of adults — or about 60 million people — have a mental disorder. Of that group, 4% live with a serious mental illness. But only about 43% of people with a mental illness in this country receive the care they need.¹
Mental illness does not discriminate and affects people regardless of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and age. Members of the BIPOC community (which stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) face barriers to receiving mental health care. These barriers stem from historic and systemic racism both inside and outside of healthcare communities, as well as economic, geographic, and linguistic hurdles.
If you or someone you love belongs to the BIPOC community, you may wonder how to overcome these barriers to access quality mental health care. We’ve compiled information and resources in this guide to help ease that burden.
BIPOC community mental health facts
Barriers to care
Virtual mental health resources
Therapist matching services and directories
Financial assistance and free services
Understanding the historical oppression and marginalization of the BIPOC community in the U.S. can help illuminate why conversations about mental health are essential. Luckily, many online resources help put these issues into perspective, including information from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) — Identity and Cultural Dimensions — and Mental Health America’s BIPOC Mental Health fact sheets. Resources like these contextualize barriers to care like mental health stigma, access, and quality of care for the BIPOC community and inform decisions and policies moving forward.
To increase awareness, July was named BIPOC Mental Health Month, a time to discuss the challenges and needs of the BIPOC community regarding mental health care. These topics are important all year, but this campaign helps to highlight facts and statistics about groups that have historically been oppressed and marginalized in the U.S. and how this treatment impacts mental health and access to care.
Below, we’ve included some essential information about mental health care in specific BIPOC communities.
Black and African American
About 17% of Black and African American people in the U.S. live with a mental illness. This equates to about 6.8 million people.² Financial issues, misdiagnosis, and systemic racism hinder Black and African American people from receiving quality mental health care. For example, Black and African American people who live below the poverty line are twice as likely to self-report mental distress than those who live above it.³ As of 2018, one in five Black/African American people lives below the poverty line.⁴
Frequently, Black and African American people are not provided with medication or therapy when reporting mental health issues. And they are more likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder like schizophrenia than white people with the same symptoms who are instead diagnosed with more easily treatable mood disorders.⁵ Adults in this community are also more likely to report symptoms of depression — like overwhelming sadness and hopelessness — than their white counterparts, even though Black and African American people receive treatment less often.⁶
Suicide has also risen in the Black and African American population in recent years. In 2019, it was their second leading cause of death in those aged 15-24.⁷ Between 2008-2018, suicidal thoughts rose in the Black and African American community from 6% to 9.5%. And 1.5% of Black and African American people made a suicide attempt in 2008 compared to 2.4% in 2018.⁸
About 2.2 million Asian American people in the U.S. live with a mental illness, which is 13% of the Asian American population.² Cultural pressures seem to dictate Asian American hesitancy to access mental health care, including avoiding stigma and family judgment. Asian American women, in particular, report low self-esteem because of standards set by family and society. However, cultural expectations often cause Asian American women to remain silent about issues like depression when they witness it in family members or themselves. This silence is a way to protect themselves and their families from judgment.⁹
Nevertheless, mental health disorders are rising among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI). In 2008, only about 2.9% of AAPI people reported severe mental illness. This number increased to 5.6% by 2018.¹⁰
Latinx and Hispanic
About 8.9 million Latinx and Hispanic people in the U.S. live with a mental illness, which is about 15% of the Latinx and Hispanic population.² For this community, religion and culture play a pivotal role in attitudes toward seeking mental health care. Some Latinx and Hispanic people may see mental health issues as resulting from crises of faith or sinful behavior as opposed to diagnosable and treatable illnesses.¹¹ There are also attitudes within Latinx and Hispanic communities that having a mental illness or even conversing about mental illness is a source of shame or embarrassment for the family. This also causes fewer people to seek treatment.¹²
Issues stemming from immigrant status and language barriers also result in a lack of quality care for Latinx and Hispanic communities. Both adults and young people experience mental anguish because of the treatment of immigrants in the U.S. This includes pressures to assimilate into American culture.¹³ Because of a shortage of Spanish-speaking mental health care providers, Latinx and Hispanic people often can’t access care. If they do, they are evaluated differently in English and often don’t receive the care they need.¹³
Native and Indigenous
About 830,000 Native and Indigenous people live with mental health issues, about 23% of the Native and Indigenous population.² Arguably, Native and Indigenous people experience the most severe barriers to mental health care because of their lack of access to resources in general. This is a direct result of the U.S. government’s past and current treatment that has caused many Native and Indigenous people long-term mental health distress, including PTSD and other complex problems.
In fact, Native and Indigenous people experience serious psychological distress 2.5 times more often than the general U.S. population.³ More than double the amount of Native and Indigenous people between 15-19 in the U.S. die by suicide each year compared to the white population.¹⁴
Cultural and religious influences also keep Native and Indigenous people from pursuing mental health care. One study showed that Native and Indigenous people who experience anxiety, depression, or substance abuse are more likely to seek healing from a spiritual leader than from a medical professional.¹⁵
How racism impacts mental health
Historic and systemic racism impacts the BIPOC community’s ability to access quality mental health care. While it would be impossible to cover every aspect of how white supremacy functions as a barrier to care, we’ve provided some statistics and other info that reveal some of the most obvious ways it has impacted mental health care.
- When speaking with Black patients, physicians are 23% more verbally dominant and use 33% less patient-centered language than when they treat white patients.¹
- Even when presenting the same symptoms, Black people are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than a mood disorder compared to white patients.¹
- Multiracial people are more likely to report a mental illness than any other racial or ethnic group.¹
- 22.7% of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives report a mental illness, compared to 19% of white people.¹
- The BIPOC community is disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, where 50-75% of youth meet the criteria for mental illness.¹
- More than any other racial or ethnic group, Native Americans and Alaskan Natives report higher alcohol abuse and PTSD rates.¹
Consult Mental Health America’s publication The State of Mental Health in America or the American Psychiatric Association’s Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations for more information about racism’s impact on mental health.
The BIPOC community’s lack of access to mental health care services is a complex issue that has been discussed in the healthcare field for many years. Barriers to care include systemic issues that result from the racialized history of mental health care in the U.S., resulting in BIPOC community members not receiving mental healthcare as frequently as their white counterparts.¹⁶
Other barriers to care include BIPOC community members:
- Being less likely to seek mental healthcare
- Receiving substandard care
- Ending mental health care prematurely
- Experiencing racial bias in healthcare services and providers
- Encountering a language barrier with providers
- Perceiving a social stigma around mental health and care
- Not having health insurance or funds to afford care¹⁷
There are many more issues that BIPOC community members face when trying to access care. This explains why access to online services and culturally competent providers is crucial to the mental well-being of this community.
Here are some important facts to know about barriers to care:
- Only one-third of Black people who need mental healthcare receive it.¹⁸
- Around 34% of Latinx people who need mental healthcare receive it yearly.¹⁹
- Every year, only about 23.3% of AAPI adults with a mental illness receive treatment, which is the lowest of the documented racial categories.²⁰
- Indigenous people face some of the toughest barriers to care because of a lack of interpreter services, providers’ deficiency in cultural competence, and distrust of government programs due to historical racism and genocide.²¹ At the same time, Indigenous communities face some of the highest substance abuse and suicide incidences. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for American Indian/Alaskan Natives between the ages of 10-34, according to a 2019 survey.²²
- A sizeable Canadian survey of over 16,000 people who come from historically marginalized groups found that those who belong to ethnic minority groups and who self-identify as having poor mental health access mental health services much less often compared to the white population.²³
- 63% of Black people believe that mental health issues are a sign of personal weakness. According to a survey, Black and African American men are particularly concerned about the stigma resulting from a claim of mental illness.²⁴
- The racial and ethnic makeup of mental healthcare providers does not match the demography of the U.S. A 2015 survey showed that 86% of psychologists are white, while only 62% of the U.S. population is white.²⁵
- Only 5% of psychologists are Asian; 5% are Hispanic; 4% are Black/African-American, and 1% are multiracial.²⁵
Changes at the policy level and in the ways care is delivered are necessary to close the mental health care gap.²⁶ Researchers advocate for intersectional approaches to care that acknowledge and combat historical oppression and systemic racism. These approaches could broaden the availability of care and help more members of the BIPOC community get the mental health resources they need.²⁷
Until that happens on a large scale, there are online resources available for the BIPOC community to begin conversations around mental health and seek culturally competent help. We’ve outlined many of those resources below.
While speaking to a mental health professional might be the most effective way to improve your mental health, consulting online resources for support and inspiration can also help you gain perspective. There are many online resources that assist members of the BIPOC community in finding peace of mind and improving their overall well-being. These resources include information on empowerment, life coaching, and conversations about mental health in general.
Some virtual mental health resources that discuss the BIPOC community as a whole include:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- The BIPOC Project
- BIPOC Mental Health Resource Guide
- Mental Health America: BIPOC Mental Health
- The Mental Health Coalition Resource Library
There are also some programs sponsored by the U.S. government that contribute to the mental health and well-being of the BIPOC community, including:
- National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health
While it would be impossible to include every virtual mental health resource available online, we’ve compiled a list of some important ones below.
- Asian American Psychological Association
- Asian American Racism & Mental Health Resources
- Asian Mental Health Collective
- The Asian Mental Health Project
- Asians Do Therapy
- Chinese-American Family Alliance for Mental Health
- GAPIMNY: Empowering Queer and Trans Asian Pacific Islanders
- National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
- National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Association
- South Asian Mental Health Alliance
- South Asian Mental Health Initiative & Network
Black and African American
- Black Mental Health Alliance
- Black Mental Health Matters
- Black Mental Wellness
- Black Women’s Health Imperative
- Brother, You’re on My Mind
- Center for Black Women’s Wellness
- Dear Black Women
- Eustress: An organization that promotes conversations about mental health in the Black community
- NAMI Sharing Hope: Mental Wellness in the Black Community
- Ourselves Black
- Sista Afya: A community-based mental wellness organization for Black women
Latinx and Hispanic
- American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry
- MANA: A National Latina Organization
- National Alliance for Hispanic Health
- The Focus on You
- Our guide to Mental Health Resources for the Latinx Community
Native and Indigenous
- Circles of Care
- The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
- Native American Counseling and Healing Collective
- One Sky Center
- Indian Leadership for Indian Health: Two-Spirit and LGBTQ Health
- AAKOMA Project: Mental health resources for youth of color
- Black Girls Smile
- Center for Native American Youth
- MindRight: Low-cost, culturally competent life coaching for people of color aged 13-25
- National Native Children’s Trauma Center
- Pretty Brown Girl
- The Steve Fund: Group that promotes mental wellbeing for BIPOC youth
- The Trevor Project: Supporting Black LGBTQ Youth Mental Health
Aside from accessing therapy, support groups, or online resources, taking time for self-care is incredibly important for mental health. Self-care can look like a variety of things: meditation, art projects, reading, a hot bath — really anything that helps you feel centered and refreshed. There are a variety of online resources that help you cultivate a self-care practice, and many of them are geared toward the BIPOC community.
- AAPI Mental Health and Self-Care Resources: A listing of dozens of resources organized by St. John’s University.
- Liberate: Meditation app for and by the Black community
- Mocha Health: Focuses on health and wellness for Black women
- The Safe Place: Mobile phone app for Black mental health education and self-care
- WeRNative: A holistic health organization by and for Native youth
- Black Girl in Om
- Black Lives Matter Meditation for Healing Racial Trauma
- The Nap Ministry
- National Museum of African American History and Culture: Self-Care Resources
- Mental Health America: Reimagining Self-Care for Black Folks
- POC Online Classroom
Once you’ve decided to pursue therapy, you may wonder if the therapist you find will understand your unique struggles. In fact, a lack of cultural competence in mental health care providers can lead to misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis. This may come from language barriers or a lack of training, empathy, or understanding of cultural representations of symptoms.¹
Having a mental health care professional understand and meet your needs is critical to receiving quality care. Luckily, many online directories and therapist matching services are dedicated to helping BIPOC community members find culturally competent therapists. Here are some of those organizations:
There are also directories and matching services that focus on specific segments of the BIPOC community. Find some of those services below.
- Asian American Health Initiative (AAHI): Mental Health Provider Database
- Asian Mental Health Collective: US Therapist Directory
Black and African American
- Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective (BEAM): Black Virtual Wellness Directory
- Black Mental Health Alliance
- Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation: Directory of Mental Health Providers and Programs
- Ebony’s Mental Health Resources by State
- Melanin and Mental Health: Therapist Directory
- Psychology Today: Directory of Black and African American Therapists
- Therapy for Black Girls
- Therapy for Black Men
- ZenCare: How to Find a Black Therapist
- LGBTQ Psychotherapists of Color
- National Queer & Trans Therapists of Color Network
- Therapy for Queer People of Color
The cost of therapy is a significant barrier for many people, including members of the BIPOC community. In addition, many are without health insurance to mitigate costs. As of a 2018 survey, the following members of each community did not have insurance:
- 11.5% of Black and African American people⁶
- 14.9% of Native and Indigenous people²⁸
- 18% of Latinx and Hispanic people²⁹
- 7.4% percent of Asian Americans³⁰
- 9.4% percent of Pacific Islanders³⁰
Several organizations offer free sessions and financial help for those who need it. You can also consult our guide to Free Online Therapy to find out more.
- Black Female Therapists: 2-3 free therapy sessions for Black people.
- Black Men Heal: Up to 8 free therapy sessions for Black men.
- The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives: Funding opportunities to prevent suicide, domestic violence, and substance abuse.
- The Loveland Foundation: Free therapy sessions for Black women and girls.
- The Mental Health Fund for Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color: Financial assistance for Queer and Trans BIPOC.
- The National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network: Up to 6 free therapy sessions for Queer and Trans people of color.
- Sad Girls Club: Free mental health assistance for Black women and girls.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Grant opportunities for Indigenous tribes for assistance with behavioral health initiatives.
- Therapy Fund Foundation: Some free therapy sessions for Black people.
If you are experiencing a crisis, many of the resources in this guide are not right for you. You should contact a friend or family member or call 911 if it’s an emergency. Another option in a crisis is to call or text a helpline. There are dozens of helplines available 24/7 to help you during a mental health crisis. We’ve included several important ones below. You can also consult our guide to Suicide Prevention Facts and Resources.
Two helplines created specifically for members of the BIPOC community include:
Other crisis lines
- Boys Town National Hotline: 1-800-448-3000
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741
- Crisis Text Line (Spanish): Text HOLA to 741741 or 442-AYUDAME
- The LGBT National Hotline: 888-843-4564
- Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio: 888-628-9454
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI
- National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights: 1-510-465-1984
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (For TTY Users: Use your preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255)
- Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860
- The Trevor Project: 866-488-7386, for LGBTQ+ youth
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