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Minority Populations Are Underserved in the Current Mental Health System

Understanding the Goal

Racial and ethnic minority Americans comprise a substantial and vibrant segment of the U.S. population, enriching our society with many unique strengths, cultural traditions, and important contributions.  These groups are growing rapidly; current projections show that by 2025, this segment of the population will account for more than 40% of all Americans.

Unfortunately, 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.  Misunderstanding and misinterpreting behaviors have led to tragic consequences, including inappropriately placing minorities in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.

While bold efforts to improve services for culturally diverse populations currently are underway, significant barriers still remain in access, quality, and outcomes of care for minorities.  As a result, American Indians, Alaska Natives, African Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Hispanic Americans bear a disproportionately high burden of disability from mental disorders.  This higher burden does not arise from a greater prevalence or severity of illnesses in these populations, rather, it stems from an overall lack of care and poorer quality of care.

To read the entire report of the President's New Freedom Commission on Mental Health

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