We often think of our mind and body as separate, but our mental health and physical health are interconnected. The World Health Organization’s constitution states: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Still, for many people, their emotional, psychological, and social well-being is often neglected. There are a number of reasons for this. In many communities, taking on the challenges of mental health conditions is complicated by less access to care, cultural stigma, and lower-quality care. Less than half of all individuals living with a diagnosable mental illness seek treatment because of the stigma associated with mental health. This percentage is even more prevalent for the Black community. Only a third of Black adults who need mental health treatment will receive it. The racial disparities in mental healthcare are compounded by the lack of culturally relevant care. Oftentimes, mental health services lack the scientific and compassionate clinical frameworks to ensure people of color (POC) feel like they are seen, heard, and understood in mental health systems. This increases the likelihood that POC will not seek treatment, or will disengage from treatment sooner, ultimately losing the necessary level of care that is required to manage their mental health needs, and putting them at greater risk of developing other physical health issues.
Despite these external obstacles to quality mental healthcare — stigma, discrimination and lack of access to care — there are ways to take charge of your emotional, psychological, and social well-being.
Feel seen and heard, and get your mental health needs met with the following tips:
Connect with the present moment to get in touch with your feelings. Do a daily self-check to assess your emotional wellness. Part of your mental health includes aligning yourself with what you value. As you start your day, ask yourself the following questions:
a. How will your behavior support what you value in your life?
b. What resources are available to support you in following the direction you desire
c. Are you prepared to overcome any barriers that prohibit you from living an emotionally healthy life?
Increase your awareness of the impact that mental health has on you and your community. Learn about the detrimental outcomes that can result from not tending to your mental health needs. The stigma associated with mental health has proven to be a barrier to seeking treatment.1 However, the stigma associated with unaddressed mental health issues can be even more significant. For example, research shows a common belief among many African Americans that discussing mental illness is inappropriate. The inability to talk about and address mental health has elevated the suicide rates for Black children to exceed that of White children, totaling over a third of elementary-age suicides. Seeking professional help to support psychological well-being can improve wellness and save lives.
Embrace prevention when it comes to your mental health. Everyone experiences symptoms that may be associated with mental health diagnoses. Symptoms indicate a need for support and receiving early intervention can often prevent symptoms from exacerbating. Acknowledging the needs associated with your mental health better prepares you to manage your wellbeing.