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Differences in Mental Health Care among Communities

Much research on differences in the health care provision among different races has been done. However, there has not been agreement on the determinants of differences in specialty health care. This paper seeks to study the causes of differences in advancement of specialty health care among different racial and ethnic groups in the United States.


In the report “Access to Mental Health Treatment by English Language Proficiency and Race/Ethnicity,“ Tetine Sentell, Martha Shumway and Lonnie Snowden found out that differences in specialty care are a result of the language barriers. They argued that English-speaking individuals have higher odds of getting the needed services compared to non-English speakers. Moreover, the scholars brought to light that mental health care diagnosis and treatment depends a lot on direct communication between the care givers and the patients. They as well pointed out that most minority communities are likely to source mental health care from primary care givers who are less probably to notice any mental problems. “This study also confirms that English proficiency is certainly not the only factor leading to mental health disparities.” (Sentell, Shumway, & Showden, 2007). In their research, other associated factors such as insurance status, length of time in the United States, poverty, the U.S. Nativity were controlled.

The separate study revealed that the language barrier was not the major factor contributing to the differences in use of specialty care. The findings documented in the report “Inequalities in Use of Specialty Mental Health Services among Latinos, African-Americans and Non-Latino Whites.” The group of scientists led by Margarita Alegria substantiated the poor Latinos “who are not categorized as poor” were self-reliant in dealing with problems related to the mental health (Alegria, Canino, Rios, Vera, Calderon, Rusch, & Ortega, 2002). They had a coping mechanism that could be a main reason they did not use the mental health services. The researchers also found out that more access to Medicaid specialty services contributed to increased use of the mental health services. In areas with more behavioral health providers and specialists, more people were likely to seek these services. Furthermore, the differences in mental health care were partly a result of recognition of mental problems. The racial and ethnic differences were in evaluating an apparent need for care. Some ethnic/racial communities, therefore, sought medical health care more than others.

Jeanne Miranda and Lisa Cooper conducted a similar study and produced a report entitled “Disparities in Care for Depression among Primary Care Patients.” The scholars found that there were no differences in mental health care recommendation reporting among the Latinos and African-Americans and white Americans. In terms of likelihood to attend specialty care, the aforementioned researchers discovered no ethnic differences. However, the minorities’ representatives were less likely to actually use the anti-depressants compared to white Americans. “Several factors could contribute to the lower use of antidepressant medications among the Latinos and African-Americans.” (Miranda & Cooper, 2004). One reason could be their attitude towards the depressant prescriptions. Most of them think they are addictive and not effective.

These studies concluded that there are differences in mental health care among various ethnic and racial communities in the United States. The reasons advanced include: language barriers, availability of specialists within a neighborhood, attitude towards the mental health care and differences in recognition of the need to use mental care. Further research is needed to investigate other factors leading to lower rates of receiving specialty care such as: differences in level of participation between the patients and care providers, cultural influences, financial capacity and so on.

Cultural influences could be a main determinant of the differences in mental health care among various ethnic and racial communities in the United States. For example, many Latinos and African-Americans involve a family member in the provision of mental health care. Additionally, the observation that there is a difference in real use of antidepressants between African-Americans and Latinos, on the one hand, and white Americans on the other side, suggests that cultural influences play a major role.

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