Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background. However, background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult. National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was established in July, 2008 to start changing this.
Roland Behm, board of directors for the Georgia Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention addressed the access and treatment issues, and beliefs/attitudes surrounding minority mental health amid COVID-19.
Additionally, on July 29th at 12:00 PM, AFSP will present on discrimination, minority stress, and their impact on the mental health of persons of color and other minorities. You can register for this event here. The Facebook Event can be found here.
- Physical Distance, Not Social Distance. Despite its name, social distancing requires physical space between people, not social distance. Efforts can be made to stay connected and maintain meaningful relationships by telephone or video, especially among individuals with substantial risk factors for suicide. Social media solutions can be explored to facilitate these goals.
- Tele–Mental Health. There is national momentum to increase the use of telehealth in response to COVID-19. Unfortunately, tele–mental health treatments for individuals with suicidal ideation have lagged far behind the telehealth field. Opportunities to increase the use of evidence-based treatments for individuals with suicidal thoughts have been noted for years, especially in rural settings, but fear of adverse events and lawsuits have paralyzed the field. Disparities in computer and high-speed internet access must also be addressed. Research, culture change, and potentially even legislative protections are needed to facilitate delivery of suicide prevention treatments to individuals who will otherwise receive nothing.
- Increase Access to Mental Health Care. As COVID-19 precautions develop in health care settings, it is essential to consider the management of individuals with mental health crises. Screening and prevention procedures for COVID-19 that might reduce access to care (eg, canceled appointments, sending patients home) could include screening for mental health crises; clinical staff would be needed to some degree in settings that may currently relegate COVID-19 symptom screening to administrative staff. Also, rather than sending a patient with a child home, alternative treatment settings could be considered (eg, a private space outside).
- Distance-Based Suicide Prevention. There are evidence-based suicide prevention interventions that were designed to be delivered remotely. For example, some brief contact interventions (telephone-based outreach)8 and the Caring Letters intervention (in which letters are sent through the mail)9 have reduced suicide rates in randomized clinical trials. Follow-up contact may be especially important for individuals who are positive for COVID-19 and have suicide risk factors.
Courtesy: Georgia Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention