Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity—A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General
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Mental health is fundamental to health, according to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General, the first Surgeon General’s report ever to focus exclusively on mental health. That report of two years ago urged Americans to view mental health as paramount to personal well-being, family relationships, and successful contributions to society. It documented the disabling nature of mental illnesses, showcased the strong science base behind effective treatments, and recommended that people seek help for mental health problems or disorders. The first mental health report also acknowledged that all Americans do not share equally in the hope for recovery from mental illnesses. This is especially true of members of racial and ethnic minority groups. That awareness galvanized me to ask for a supplemental report on the nature and extent of disparities in mental health care for racial and ethnic minorities and on promising directions for the elimination of these disparities. This Supplement documents that the science base on racial and ethnic minority mental health is inadequate; the best available research, however, indicates that these groups have less access to and avail-ability of care, and tend to receive poorer quality mental health services. These disparities leave minority communities with a greater disability burden from unmet mental health needs. A hallmark of this Supplement is its emphasis on the role that cultural factors play in mental health. The cultures from which people hail affect all aspects of mental health and illness, including the types of stresses they confront, whether they seek help, what types of help they seek, what symptoms and concerns they bring to clinical attention, and what types of coping styles and social supports they possess. Likewise, the cultures of clinicians and service systems influence the nature of mental health services.