Ethnic Minorities Still Receiving Inferior Mental Health Treatment, Says APA Journal


Primary care that includes mental health screenings and treatments that take into account a patient's language and cultural background can help address mental health care disparities among ethnic minorities.

WASHINGTON — Primary care that includes mental health screenings and treatments that take into account a patient’s language and cultural background can help address mental health care disparities among ethnic minorities, according to psychologists, physicians and other health care experts writing in a special issue of Psychological Services®, published by the American Psychological Association.

Thirteen years since a U.S. surgeon general’s report declared that African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and Native Americans receive lower quality mental health care in general than whites, there are still significant barriers to mental health services. These inequities include cost, stigma and poor quality, according to the special issue’s leading article, “Toward Culturally Centered Integrative Care for Addressing Mental Health Disparities Among Ethnic Minorities (PDF, 254KB).” The piece was written by Kisha Holden, PhD, MSCR, former Surgeon General David Satcher, MD, PhD, Brian McGregor, PhD, Poonam Thandi, MD, Edith Fresh, PhD, Kameron Sheats, PhD, Allyson Belton, MPH, and Gail Mattox, MD, of the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

“More than 50 percent of patients currently being treated receive some form of mental health services treatment from a primary care provider, and primary care is now the sole form of health care used by over 30 percent of patients with a mental disorder accessing the health care system,” the authors wrote. “Therefore, it is vital that mental health services are integrated with primary care services. A health care team that considers culture, shows respect and assesses and affirms patient differences will provide patients a comfortable, supportive environment to express their mental health concerns.”

The special issue contains 13 articles, including a review of research on care for depressed ethnic minorities, a study of urban adults receiving mental health services after exposure to trauma and a study of depression treatment among Latino primary care patients.

Articles include:

Toward Culturally Centered Integrative Care for Addressing Mental Health Disparities Among Ethnic Minorities (PDF, 254KB)

The authors propose a comprehensive, innovative, culturally centered integrated care model to address complexities within the health care system. Their recommendations for health care practitioners emphasize the importance of providing a holistic approach for physical, mental, emotional and behavioral problems among ethnic minorities in a primary care setting.

Contact: Kisha Holden

A Critical Review of Culturally Sensitive Treatments for Depression: Recommendations for Intervention and Research (PDF, 114KB)

Culturally adapted mental health treatments are more effective for racial and ethnic minorities than traditional psychotherapy, according to recent research. Despite these advances, mental health treatment disparities among racial and ethnic minorities still exist. This article reviewed 16 culturally sensitive treatments for depression and found that accommodating for language during therapy sessions was critical, in addition to using approaches that were problem-focused and direct. “Culturally adapted treatments for depression appear effective in symptom reduction, and ethnic minority clients may be more likely to seek and stay in treatment if they consider the issues discussed in therapy relevant to their culture,” wrote authors Zornitsa Kalibatseva, MA, and Frederick T. L. Leong, PhD, of Michigan State University.

Contact: Zornitsa Kalibatseva

Factors Associated With Mental Health Service Use in Urban, Impoverished, Trauma-Exposed Adults (PDF, 95KB)

Patients were more likely to seek mental health services if they had social support, had positive attitudes toward treatment seeking, and were unable to work because of a disability, according to this study. Questionnaires were completed by 135 adults living in an urban area with a lifetime history of traumatic stress exposure. Approximately 20 percent were receiving mental health services, primarily at outpatient mental health clinics. Improving attitudes toward treatment seeking as well as identifying work difficulties may be important avenues for improving willingness to seek care and decreasing disparities in care for trauma-exposed adults, wrote the authors Bita Ghafoori, PhD, Dennis G. Fisher, PhD, Olga Koresteleva, PhD, and Madelyn Hong, BA, who are all with California State University, Long Beach. Implications for mental health policy and practice are also discussed.

Contact: Bita Ghafoori

Uptake of Depression Treatment Recommendations Among Latino Primary Care Patients (PDF, 139KB)

A survey of 90 Latino primary care patients whose physicians recommended they undergo treatment for depression found that those who had a good relationship with their doctor were more likely to follow up with the treatment three months later. Patients who were prescribed medication were more likely to follow up with treatment than those who were referred to psychotherapy. “The primary care physician, the most familiar and trusted health care provider, together with the mental health specialist can facilitate access and de-mystify mental health care and the patient receives both continuity of care as well as guideline-adherent mental health care,” wrote the lead author, Rachel Zack Ishikawa, PhD, of Clark University.

Contact: Rachel Zack Ishikawa

Other articles include:

Addressing Disparities in Mental Health Agencies: Strategies to Implement the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Mental Health (PDF, 84KB), by Crystal L. Barksdale, PhD, Health Determinants and Disparities Practice, SRA International Inc., Rockville, Maryland, and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Jennifer Kenyon, BA, Darci L. Graves, MPP, MA, and C. Godfrey Jacobs, Health Determinants and Disparities Practice, SRA International Inc., Rockville, Maryland

Contact: Crystal Barksdale

Translating Disparities Research to Policy: A Qualitative Study of State Mental Health Policymakers’ Perceptions of Mental Health Care Disparities Report Cards (PDF, 204KB), by Anne Valentine, MPH, and Darcie DeAngelo, MA, Cambridge Health Alliance; Margarita Alegría, PhD, and Benjamin L. Cook, PhD, Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School

Contact: Benjamin Cook

Building the Gateway to Success: An Appraisal of Progress in Reaching Underserved Families and Reducing Racial Disparities in School-Based Mental Health (PDF, 117KB), by Laurel Bear, PhD, and Rosalie Finer, PhD, Alhambra Unified School District; Sisi Guo, MA, and Anna S. Lau, PhD, University of California, Los Angeles

Contact: Anna S. Lau

Guidelines for Establishing a Telemental Health Program to Provide Evidence-Based Therapy for Trauma-Exposed Children and Families (PDF, 111KB), by Andrea M. Jones, PhD, Kristen M. Shealy, EdM, Kathryn Reid-Quiñones, PhD, Angela D. Moreland, PhD, Tatiana M. Davidson, PhD, Cristina M. López, PhD, Simone C. Barr, PhD, and Michael A. de Arellano, PhD, Medical University of South Carolina

Contact: Andrea M. Jones

Working Together to Solve Disparities: Latina/o Parents’ Contributions to the Adaptation of a Preventive Intervention for Childhood Conduct Problems (PDF, 103KB), by Larissa N. Niec, PhD, Ignacio D. Acevedo-Polakovich, PhD, Emily Abbenante-Honold, PhD, Allison S. Christian, MA, and Miya L. Barnett, PhD, Central Michigan University; Gerardo Aguilar, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan; Samuel O. Peer, MA, Central Michigan University

Contact: Larissa Niec

Toward the Early Recognition of Psychosis Among Spanish-Speaking Adults on Both Sides of the U.S.-Mexico Border (PDF, 86KB), by Rachel Nichole Casas, PhD, University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles; Edlin Gonzales, MA, University of Southern California; Eréndira Aldana-Aragón, MA, University of Hawaii, Manoa; María del Carmen Lara-Muñoz, MD, PhD, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla; Alex Kopelowicz, MD, University of California, Los Angeles; Laura Andrews, Mental Health America of San Diego County; Steven Regeser López, PhD, University of Southern California

Contact: Rachel Nichole Casas or Steven Regeser López

Mental Health Screening Among Newly Arrived Refugees Seeking Routine Obstetric and Gynecologic Care (PDF, 73KB), by Crista E. Johnson-Agbakwu, MD, MSc, Maricopa Integrated Health System, Refugee Women’s Health Clinic, Phoenix, Arizona, and Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, Arizona State University; Jennifer Allen Mountain, MD, Park Health Center, Phoenix, Arizona; Jeanne F. Nizigiyimana, MSW, Maricopa Integrated Health System, Refugee Women’s Health Clinic; Glenda Ramirez, Maricopa Integrated Health System, Refugee Women’s Health Clinic; Michael Hollifield, MD, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and VA Long Beach Healthcare System, Long Beach, California

Contact: Crista Johnson-Agbakwu

An Innovative Community-Oriented Approach to Prevention and Early Intervention With Refugees in the United States (PDF, 85KB), by Kristel Heidi Nazzal, PhD, Marzieh Forghany, MS, M. Charis Geevarughese, PsyD, Venus Mahmoo, MS, Asian Americans for Community Involvement, San Jose, California

Contact: Jorge Wong

Applying Behavior Change Theory to Technology Promoting Veteran Mental Health Care Seeking (PDF, 93KB), by Julia M. Whealin, PhD, Veterans Affairs Pacific Islands Health Care System, Honolulu, and University of Hawaii; Eric Kuhn, PhD, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California, and Stanford University; Robert H. Pietrzak, PhD, MPH, VA Connecticut Healthcare System, West Haven, Connecticut, and Yale University

Contact: Julia Whealin

Copies of articles are also available from APA Public Affairs, (202) 336-5700.

Special Issue: Innovations in Addressing Mental Health Care Disparities, Psychological Services, November 2014.

Guest Editors: Michi Fu, PhD, and Joyce Chu, PhD

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes nearly 130,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.

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