Sophia Walton

Professor McMahon

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ENG 122

December 13, 2017


Illness: The Racial and Ethnic Differences

illness has become a larger conversation in recent years thanks to technology and
the continually increasing rates of people who have depression and anxiety. Although,
the stigmas associated with now than in previous years and more discussion on
being mentally ill, there are still other issues that need to be addressed.
Mental illness in America cannot just be viewed as a collective issue. It must
be examined through every perspective, so a better understanding is gained about
the complexities of it. Through multiple studies, it’s apparent the way mental
illness is recognized and whether people decide to seek treatment is affected by
their racial and ethnic background. The consequence of this, is that people let
their views effect how they see those with mental illnesses as well forgoing
help. Furthermore, the current mental health care services provided in America need
to be improved in accessibility and affordability,
in order to advance the process of erasing the stigma around mental illness and
creating healthier communities of people.

of the results of stigmatization of mental illnesses, is the general public’s
avoidance of people with mental illnesses. When it comes to interacting with
someone who has a mental illness, with “approximately in five people in
California is unwilling to socialize with someone who has symptoms of
depression or schizophrenia, and this is the same across all major
racial/ethnic groups.” (Collins, 3) This statistic from the study “Racial and
Ethnic Differences in Mental Illness Stigma in California” is revealing of the
differential treatment that those with mental illnesses face. This study is
based on results from the California well-being survey which tracks mental illness stigma,
discrimination and the mental health
state of Californians. Few studies have examined stigmatization
of mental illnesses in racial/ethnic minority communities. The results for past
studies has also been found to be unreliable because the results are either
mixed, there isn’t enough representation for the Latino and Asian American
populations or the study is only looking at the stereotypical beliefs
associated with mental illnesses (Collins, 1). With California being one of the
most racially and ethnically diverse state in America, the “Racial and Ethnic
Differences in Mental Illness Stigma in California” study claims to be more
representative than earlier studies. This study’s inclusion of Latinos and
Asian Americans as well as the ability for participants to answer survey
questions in their chosen language. Around 2,568 California adults composed of Whites,
African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and multi-racial people took part
in this survey. It asked questions about the social distance preferred between
themselves and someone with a mental illness. Participants responded to three different
contact situations involving someone with depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD
and how they’d feel either moving next door, spending an evening socializing,
and working closely with them. The end results of this research found that in
California, the least stigmatizing racial group were Whites, with African Americans
and Latinos coming right after with slightly higher rates, and Asian Americans
expressing the highest rates of stigmatization. Looking more into Latinos,
those who took the survey in Spanish were less willing to socialize with people
showing signs mental illness symptoms, but more willing to work with them than
Latinos who took the survey in English. Altogether, each racial/ethnic group didn’t
have observable differences in their results from one another in response to
socializing with someone experiencing symptoms of depression or schizophrenia. PTSD
was the only mental illness that had given results that were noticeably
distinguishable by race/ethnicity. Because racial/ethnic groups respond
differently to certain symptom sets depending on the specific social situation,
it’s obvious there are possible underlying factors contributing to the views of
stigma and discrimination that may offer an explanation as to why findings on
racial/ethnic differences have been inconsistent across prior studies. (Collins,

the topic of stigmas, the “Racial and Ethnic Differences in Mental Illness
Stigma and Discrimination Among Californians Experiencing Mental Health
Challenges” is another study done by the same research group and on the same
subject. In this study, instead of focusing solely on social distance, it looks
at people with mental illnesses themselves, and their own self-stigma while also
examining, recovery beliefs, treatment attitudes, and mental health service use.
The study ultimately found, African-Americans and Whites are alike in various
indicators of mental illness stigma and discrimination. According to
researchers of this study, this finding is also consistent with prior studies
involving population-based samples of African Americans and Whites. Though this
is true, African Americans were still considerably more likely to report dealing
with a mental health problem in the past year than Whites. Regarding Latinos, the patterns were more complex because of the
language factor. Both groups of Latinos held more negative views of mental
illness. Latinos who took the
survey in English appear to experience higher levels of self-stigma and are
more likely to conceal a mental health
problem from coworkers or classmates than whites. The opposite was true for Latinos interviewed in Spanish who experience
lower levels of self-stigma, were less
likely to delay treatment, and less likely hide a mental health problem from
coworkers and classmates. They also perceived the public as being
as more caring and sympathetic toward individuals with mental illness at a
higher rate than whites. At the same time, Latinos surveyed
in Spanish had drastically higher numbers when it came to the doubt that
individuals with mental health problems could ever contributing members of society.
Still, regardless of what Spanish Latinos had said about public stigma and
willingness to receive help, the recognition of a mental health problem and the
use of mental health services were lowest among Latinos surveyed in Spanish. Though,
Asian Americans were the least likely group to report having a mental illness
in the last year, they consistently had the highest rates in feeling alienated, feeling inferior to others who have
not had a mental health problem, and believing people with mental
illnesses will never contribute to society. In general, almost all partakers of the survey said
that they would obtain mental health treatment if needed, yet the unmet need
for mental health treatment continues to be a critical public health issue.
Among survey respondents under serious distress, more than a third of African Americans
and Latinos surveyed in English had not obtained treatment. Rates were even higher
for Asian-Americans and Latinos surveyed in Spanish (Wong). Clearly, despite
what participants said, they still weren’t reaching out for the help they

 Further adding onto the topic of treatment for
mental illnesses, the “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use
among Adults” was a study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health
Services Administration to look at the use of mental health services across
groups of people. The study compiled information from 2008 to 2012. This
research found that in 2012, the highest mental health service use came from adults
reporting two or more races at about 17%, white adults right below at 16%, then
American Indian or Alaska Native adults at about 15%, followed by Black.,
Hispanic, and Asian adults. (Mental Health Serv.) These statistics are consistent
with the results from the previously mentioned studies the data on Hispanic/Latino
and Asian American populations being the least likely to receive treatment for a
mental illness. From this study, estimates of prescription psychiatric
medication use and outpatient mental health service use were higher among white
adults than among Black or Hispanic adults. However, inpatient mental health
service use was more prevalent among Black adults compared with inpatient white
adults. There is a persistent trend in white adults receiving the most
treatment, the most to be prescribed medication, and outpatient care. The most
likely explanation behind these figures is Whites overall lower levels of
stigmas across the board. (Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Racial/ Ethnic Differences in
Mental Health Service Use among Adults, 39)

no secret that the cost of treatment for something such as a mental illness
isn’t cheap.  America’s current mental
health service is faulty due to the inadequate insurance coverage, lack of available treatment
providers, and lack of variety in available treatment. When
participants of the “Racial/Ethnic Differences in Mental Health Service Use
among Adults” study were asked why they either delayed or put off getting
treatment for their mental illness, service cost and lack of insurance coverage
was one of the top reasons for not using mental health services across all
racial/ethnic groups. The belief that use of mental health services would not
help was the least cited reason for not using mental health services across all
racial/ethnic groups. So, while attitudes about mental health are important, it
seems the greatest obstacle Americans face is affordability and accessibility.
State and local governments have the biggest roles in implementing the right
mental health services for the public. States that’ve passed laws supporting
implementation of mental health parity laws, and the Affordable Care Act showed
improvements in access to insurance rates. (2017 State of Mental Health) The Affordable Care Act creates more mental health
mandates, by requiring all insurers who sell on the exchanges to include such
treatments in their benefit packages. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction
Act of 2008 applies to large, employer-sponsored insurance plans. It prevents insurance
companies from creating financial barriers to mental health care that are
greater than those created for physical treatments. While these are great
starting points, improvement in mental health service shouldn’t end here. The
current annual cost to society of treating depression alone is 210
billion-dollars 60% of which represents reduced efficiency at work and cost
related to suicide (Friedman) Counteracting this
problem and more will require better mental health services that are economical
and can adequately provide the proper treatments.

summary, there are strong discrepancies in each racial and ethnic group when
looking at mental health stigma and treatment. Stigmatization, whether it’s
being projected onto someone else or onto one’s self is harmful. It prevents
those will mental illness from getting treatment and leads to further, more
severe issues to deal with. Understanding how each racial/ethnic group beliefs on
mental illness is formed by their cultural background could be the key to
making mental illness a less stigmatized issue. What’s also equally important,
is improving the current mental health services so everyone can obtain the
treatment they need. Unchecked mental health issues can have devastating
consequences, and it makes more sense to solve a problem when it begins rather
than letting it escalate.



Collins, Rebecca L., et al. “Racial and Ethnic Differences in
Mental Illness Stigma in California.” (2014).

Friedman, Richard A. “The Mental Health Crisis
in Trump’s America.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 12
Dec. 2016,

Kliff, Sarah. “Seven
facts about America’s mental health-Care system.” The Washington Post, WP
Company, 17 Dec. 2012,

Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Racial/ Ethnic Differences in
Mental Health Service Use among Adults. HHS Publication No. SMA-15-4906.
Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2015.

Wong, Eunice C. et al. “Racial and Ethnic
Differences in Mental Illness Stigma and Discrimination Among Californians
Experiencing Mental Health Challenges.” Rand Health Quarterly 6.2
(2017): 6. Print.




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