July 20, 2023
October 26, 2023

Why We Need to Pay Attention to Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Counslr's Diamond Thaxton, LMHC outlines four principles mental health practitioners should keep in mind regarding intersectionality, discrimination, and oppression.

by
Diamond Marie Thaxton, LMHC
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Intersectionality, a term coined by professor and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” It is the acknowledgment that everyone has unique experiences of discrimination and oppression, and we must consider everything and anything that can be used to marginalize people—including aspects like a person’s gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, and more.¹

During Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we need to address the need for accessible and quality care for marginalized communities. Sometimes we forget that a person can be part of several marginalized communities, which can create even more barriers to treatment.

Intersectionality is a complex concept with various mappings by scholars regarding its origins, evolution, and adaptive meanings to multiple disciplines. However, for mental health practitioners, there are some indispensable points to keep on the forefront.

  1. Intersectionality must be addressed.

A person’s mental health often does not exist separately from their identity markers. Mental health can be impacted by gender, sexuality, age, religion, socioeconomic class, disability, and a variety of other similar factors. There may be unique life stressors that accompany these identity markers. Conversations about mental health, including a wide range of narratives on inequality, discrimination, erasure, and violence that marginalized individuals experience, are necessary because they impact mental health outcomes. However, it is crucial to understand that our identities are not the issue; the problem lies within power and social systems that create discrimination and oppression and thus impact mental health outcomes. We need to undertake community efforts to change power systems, and to broadly advocate for more equitable systems.

  1. Mental health practitioners are obligated to serve those who are marginalized.

No one can be proficient at understanding all cultures or specialized populations. However, it is essential to work on becoming culturally competent, and to have referrals ready for people seeking support if their intersectionality may be out of one’s scope of practice. If such a referral is necessary, it is important to make the referral via a warm transition with established colleagues in the community without giving the client the feeling that they are being rejected or “pawned off.”

  1. Mental health practitioners must deconstruct the power structure in their sessions.

The Hakomi Institute, a pioneer in the field of mindfulness and other techniques in experiential psychotherapy, asserts that the impact of the role, control, and power difference between client and therapist is both very strong and very subtle, and thus demands a strong ethical stance. In brief, your role as the therapist—or any helping professional—is to create a safe space, empower your client, protect their spirit, and to see a wider perspective.2

This step requires active self-reflection. This can begin with asking yourself questions like: Is your office accessible to a potential client with a disability? Are you able to provide reasonable accommodations if someone needs them? Does your no-show policy allow flexibility and considerations for issues like an immediate lack of childcare or eldercare? Can you understand your privilege and not let it interfere with the therapeutic relationship?

  1. Equal access to technology is essential.

As technology continues to advance, there is some hope that the unique needs of minority populations may be better met. One of these technological advances that has already substantially taken place is the access to, and widespread use of, telehealth in all its forms. As history has shown, minority populations often lack access to, or are excluded from, various new medical and technological developments and decisions. Accordingly, it is essential that mental health practitioners advocate equity in the advancement of and access to technology.

AI is an obvious example. When consideration for AI is introduced in the mental health community, which it already has been, it is up to every one of us to ensure that minority groups are being considered, represented, and served.

Digital mental health care has emerged as a powerful tool that not only provides accessible and inclusive support for individuals from minority groups but also fosters equitable and culturally appropriate approaches to mental well-being. For example, Counslr, an online texting support platform, was developed as a 24/7/365 remote gateway to holding text chats with licensed mental health counselors for individuals at all partnered organizations to make mental health support accessible for all and especially succeeds at reaching traditionally underserved and previously unreachable populations.

Addressing the importance of well-being in minority mental health requires compassion and empathy and is a critical step towards building a more inclusive and equitable society. Once we recognize the unique challenges faced by marginalized communities, we can work toward dismantling systemic barriers, reducing disparities, and fostering a society that values the mental health of all of its members. It is only through comprehensive efforts to promote understanding, provide accessible and culturally sensitive support, and advocate for policy changes that we can truly ensure that the traditionally unreachable marginalized communities have equitable, accessible, quality mental health care. By addressing minority mental health, we invest in the collective well-being and progress of our society as a whole.

References

  1. Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review, vol. 43, no. 6, July 1991, pp. 1241–1299, https://doi.org/10.2307/1229039.
  2. “Hakomi Institute Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics.” Hakomi Institute, 1993, updated 2015.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to Counslr, Inc., its partners, its employees, or any other mental health professionals Counslr employs. You should review this information and any questions regarding your specific circumstances with a medical professional. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as counseling, therapy, or professional medical advice.

July 20, 2023
October 26, 2023

Why We Need to Pay Attention to Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

by
Diamond Marie Thaxton, LMHC

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Thank you! Your submission has been received!
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Intersectionality, a term coined by professor and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Crenshaw, is defined as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” It is the acknowledgment that everyone has unique experiences of discrimination and oppression, and we must consider everything and anything that can be used to marginalize people—including aspects like a person’s gender, race, class, sexual orientation, physical ability, and more.¹

During Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, we need to address the need for accessible and quality care for marginalized communities. Sometimes we forget that a person can be part of several marginalized communities, which can create even more barriers to treatment.

Intersectionality is a complex concept with various mappings by scholars regarding its origins, evolution, and adaptive meanings to multiple disciplines. However, for mental health practitioners, there are some indispensable points to keep on the forefront.

  1. Intersectionality must be addressed.

A person’s mental health often does not exist separately from their identity markers. Mental health can be impacted by gender, sexuality, age, religion, socioeconomic class, disability, and a variety of other similar factors. There may be unique life stressors that accompany these identity markers. Conversations about mental health, including a wide range of narratives on inequality, discrimination, erasure, and violence that marginalized individuals experience, are necessary because they impact mental health outcomes. However, it is crucial to understand that our identities are not the issue; the problem lies within power and social systems that create discrimination and oppression and thus impact mental health outcomes. We need to undertake community efforts to change power systems, and to broadly advocate for more equitable systems.

  1. Mental health practitioners are obligated to serve those who are marginalized.

No one can be proficient at understanding all cultures or specialized populations. However, it is essential to work on becoming culturally competent, and to have referrals ready for people seeking support if their intersectionality may be out of one’s scope of practice. If such a referral is necessary, it is important to make the referral via a warm transition with established colleagues in the community without giving the client the feeling that they are being rejected or “pawned off.”

  1. Mental health practitioners must deconstruct the power structure in their sessions.

The Hakomi Institute, a pioneer in the field of mindfulness and other techniques in experiential psychotherapy, asserts that the impact of the role, control, and power difference between client and therapist is both very strong and very subtle, and thus demands a strong ethical stance. In brief, your role as the therapist—or any helping professional—is to create a safe space, empower your client, protect their spirit, and to see a wider perspective.2

This step requires active self-reflection. This can begin with asking yourself questions like: Is your office accessible to a potential client with a disability? Are you able to provide reasonable accommodations if someone needs them? Does your no-show policy allow flexibility and considerations for issues like an immediate lack of childcare or eldercare? Can you understand your privilege and not let it interfere with the therapeutic relationship?

  1. Equal access to technology is essential.

As technology continues to advance, there is some hope that the unique needs of minority populations may be better met. One of these technological advances that has already substantially taken place is the access to, and widespread use of, telehealth in all its forms. As history has shown, minority populations often lack access to, or are excluded from, various new medical and technological developments and decisions. Accordingly, it is essential that mental health practitioners advocate equity in the advancement of and access to technology.

AI is an obvious example. When consideration for AI is introduced in the mental health community, which it already has been, it is up to every one of us to ensure that minority groups are being considered, represented, and served.

Digital mental health care has emerged as a powerful tool that not only provides accessible and inclusive support for individuals from minority groups but also fosters equitable and culturally appropriate approaches to mental well-being. For example, Counslr, an online texting support platform, was developed as a 24/7/365 remote gateway to holding text chats with licensed mental health counselors for individuals at all partnered organizations to make mental health support accessible for all and especially succeeds at reaching traditionally underserved and previously unreachable populations.

Addressing the importance of well-being in minority mental health requires compassion and empathy and is a critical step towards building a more inclusive and equitable society. Once we recognize the unique challenges faced by marginalized communities, we can work toward dismantling systemic barriers, reducing disparities, and fostering a society that values the mental health of all of its members. It is only through comprehensive efforts to promote understanding, provide accessible and culturally sensitive support, and advocate for policy changes that we can truly ensure that the traditionally unreachable marginalized communities have equitable, accessible, quality mental health care. By addressing minority mental health, we invest in the collective well-being and progress of our society as a whole.

References

  1. Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review, vol. 43, no. 6, July 1991, pp. 1241–1299, https://doi.org/10.2307/1229039.
  2. “Hakomi Institute Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics.” Hakomi Institute, 1993, updated 2015.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to Counslr, Inc., its partners, its employees, or any other mental health professionals Counslr employs. You should review this information and any questions regarding your specific circumstances with a medical professional. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as counseling, therapy, or professional medical advice.

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