Four Barriers to Minority Mental Health Care

Mental health struggles impact people of every race and background. And those of every ethnicity and culture often need the help of qualified professionals when facing these challenges. However, for members of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) communities, significant roadblocks make obtaining care much more difficult.

However, minorities are the majority at the Well Community: Over two-thirds of our members are Black or Hispanic. And though they experience barriers to minority mental health care elsewhere, at the Well they are welcomed and find a place to belong, without stigma or prejudice.

In most instances across America, barriers to minority mental health care result in markedly lower rates of treatment. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, members of minority populations are significantly less likely to receive mental health care. Over the course of year, just over half of white adults in the United States living with a mental illness access treatment, compared with 39.4% of Black or African Americans, 36.1% of Hispanic Americans and just 25.4% of Asian Americans. Below are four factors that play a major role in this disparity.

Stigma and Perceptions

While stigma can prevent people of any race or background from seeking mental health care, in some cultures extra layers of stigma exist beyond those found in our society at large. These prevalent mindsets are major barriers to minority mental health care. For example, in some BIPOC communities where inner toughness is highly valued, those who are facing mental health challenges often hide their struggles due to fear of being perceived as weak-willed or as a liability to others. In addition, in groups that have faced mistreatment from the medical system in the past, an underlying distrust of health care professionals is a significant hurdle.

Lack of Culturally Competent Providers

Mental health professionals who understand the cultural factors that impact an individual’s experience are better able to provide care that’s fitting for that person’s needs and situation. This is especially important for those facing barriers to stability unique to their racial community and ethnic background.  But the number of people who need this kind of culturally competent care far exceeds the capacity of providers able to give it.

The American Psychological Association reports that as of 2021, over 80% of active psychologists are white. Approximately 8% are Hispanic, 5% are Black and just 3% are Asian. These low numbers make it difficult for many who want treatment to find a provider who can provide culturally informed care. Those who do often face long waiting lists, which can lead to months- or even years-long delays in receiving treatment. Many can only find providers of a similar ethnic background out of network, rendering appointments inaccessible due to cost. And others are hesitant to seek care at all due to negative past experiences with professionals who didn’t take their culture and background into account or who made assumption about them based on their skin color.


Lack of insurance that helps to offset the cost of care can be a major deterrent to seeking treatment. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that most minority populations were more likely than whites to be without health insurance coverage. For some groups, this disparity is especially stark: For example, 21% of American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and 19% of Hispanic individuals didn’t have health insurance, compared with 7% of white individuals. For those without health insurance, the cost of mental health services puts treatment out of reach.

Compounding lack of insurance are higher poverty rates among many BIPOC populations, which leave many without sufficient funds for regular appointments to manage their conditions. As a result, they often don’t receive ongoing care and only have access to mental health professionals through visits to the emergency room.

Discrimination and Location

Historic discrimination has shaped the locations of many minority communities and the services available within them. As a result, many are places with especially dire shortages of mental health care providers, and those living in them often have to travel significant distances to receive treatment. These communities also often lack resources that contribute to overall wellbeing, such as access to fresh, healthy food, adding an extra measure of challenge for those dealing with mental health struggles.

The Well Community comes alongside a diverse group of people living with serious mental illnesses, offering resources, support and connection. Your gift will enable us to continue to provide support and a place where they are known, respected and accepted. Give now.

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