Black and Hispanic Children Aren’t Getting the Mental Health Support They Need, Compared to Whites

Black and Hispanic Children Aren’t Getting the Mental Health Support They Need, Compared to Whites

Talking about race is hard. Living it can be even harder, especially if you find yourself in a minority group.

Disparities between majorities and minorities live on, and when it comes to mental, new research shows that the same patterns prevail.

A study led by Dr. Lyndonna Marrast, who was a fellow at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance when she initiated the study and is now an assistant professor of medicine at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in New York, laid the statistics bare.

Even when taking differences in income and insurance into account, it was found that black and Hispanic children receive far less mental health care compared with white children, despite having similar rates of need. This includes visits to psychiatrists and with social workers and psychologists, substance abuse counseling, and mental health counseling offered by paediatricians and other doctors.

Plainly and simply, Black and Hispanic children are more likely to be punished for their problems than helped.

According to co-author Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, “Minority kids don’t get help when they’re in trouble. Instead they get expelled or jailed. But punishing people for mental illness or addiction is both inhumane and ineffective. The lack of care for minority youth is the real crime.”

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Specifically, Black children had 37% fewer visits to psychiatrists, and 47% fewer visits with any mental health professionals, compared with white children.

Hispanic children had 49 percent fewer visits to psychiatrists, and 58 percent fewer visits to any mental health professional, than white children.

And as they aged, black and Hispanic young men had fewer and fewer mental health visits yet the highest risk of being incarcerated.

According to Department of Justice data, at least half of inmates suffer from mental illness, most of which was found to be untreated when these individuals were arrested.

Dr. Marrast commented: “It has become increasingly clear that minorities are over-represented in the criminal justice system and underrepresented in the receipt of mental health care. We need to look closely at how equitably our health care institutions are serving all segments of society.”

To find mental health services near you, talk with your doctor and click here.

Photo credits: Santhosh Varghese/

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