Health Tips Tuesday: mental health care in minority communities

The importance of mental health cannot be understated, specifically how it impact minority communities. (Sponsored by TommyCar Auto Group)
Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 8:49 PM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - The importance of mental health cannot be understated, specifically how it impact minority communities. Tyrena Lester, victim services supervisor at the Baystate Health Family Advocacy Center, spoke to us for this week’s Health Tips Tuesday.

Mental health has come to the forefront in recent years.  What has the impact been like on minority communities?

Lester: “I think that we have been having conversations about how important it is.  We have seen a lot of things, especially with COVID, the murder of George Floyd, we have seen things displayed in a way we have not seen before. We have started to have this conversation about why it is important to address mental health concerns and taking a holistic approach to wellness.”

Is there a mental health stigma in mental health communities, and if so, what’s being done to help combat that?

Lester: “Yeah, I do think there has been a stigma in the minority community in regards to mental health. I think that comes from a lot of different places. I think historically, there has been some institutional racism and bias that has stopped minorities from trusting a lot of different systems and the health care system is not immune to that and I think that sometimes there has been a lack of resources, like if you don’t have time to address your mental health issues, because you have to work full-time, then that might impact how you feel and I think sometimes there are some cultural and spiritual beliefs that may impact how we view mental health…I think going back to the resources, some of the most the most resourced families, whether their minorities or not, have a hard time prioritizing mental health because it’s something that you can’t see. Like if you break your arm, you know that it’s broken and you have to go to the doctors to fix it, but when it comes to mental health, it is something we cannot see in the same way, so I think we can do to combat it, is to talk about it, put it in the forefront, talk about how the mind and the body are connected so that we can move forward and start to heal.”

What mental health resources are out there for the minority communities specifically in western Massachusetts?

Lester: “Yeah, so there is an African Diaspora, there’s a Black Behavioral Health Network, there’s a smaller agency called Tools for Success, and Restorative Health and Wellness.  We have the Latino Counseling Center and Gandara is a larger agency in the area, but I would say if the waitlists are really long with the mental health crisis going on right now, I would say start with your primary care doctor and get a referral. I think that even if you don’t get a person that looks like you, you can ask questions, like have you treated minorities before, and this cultural difference, if there is one, going to impact treatment, and what does that look like for this relationship.”

If you had one message for people in terms of mental health awareness, what would that be?

Lester: “It’s as important as your physical health.”

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