Creating an Inclusive Mental Health System

November 10, 2020
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United Way of Broward County’s Commission on Behavioral Health & Drug Prevention

You can stand on almost any corner in Broward County and hear the tongues and accents of a diverse community of people. It is a beautiful reminder that Broward County is made up of a diverse group of individuals and families whose origins and ancestries span across the globe. They have integrated themselves into the fabric of our community,enhancing every part of how we do life. The foods we eat, the sports we watch, and even the ways we greet our colleagues in the office. We are affected by the environment and individuals around us in everything we do, and so in part is our mental health.

“Much of the theory and practice of mental health, including psychiatry and mainstream psychology, have emerged from Western cultural traditions and Western understandings of the human condition (Frontiers of Public Health, 2018).”However, considering that the human condition is varied and diverse, shouldn’t the interventions we employ to address the mental health needs of our community reflect that? While there are integrated models and theories of interventions to address mental health concerns,it is imperative that we are also taking into consideration the cultural differences and approaches that our community reflects. It is equally important that we address the stigma about mental illness that is prevalent in so many cultures as it inhibits many individuals from seeking the professional help they may need out of fear of how they will be perceived or the potential discrimination they may face.

Our mental well-being is the result of a complex combination of lived experiences, environment, and “conditions that take place in biological, individual-psychological, social-psychological and structural domains” (Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care, 2000). Every American generation has ushered in a better America, whether through the industrial revolution or the internet boom of the 90s. And now, we are in desperate need of an overhaul of the American mental health system. We need to employ a multi-disciplinary approach, while using technological tools to not only address stigma, but to also increase access and engagement to services. Cultural considerations must be considered when addressing the needs of special populations and ethnic minorities.

In addressing mental health concerns in our community, an important aspect is the social-emotional learning that plays a critical role in early education. Equipping young minds with the tools and the language to not only express their emotions in healthy ways, but to also have the correct language needed to share with the adults in their lives how they are accurately feeling. We believe that evidence-based universal, selective, and indicated interventions must take into consideration age, gender, race, and ethnic needs. Additionally, the clinical services and peer support that are employed in our community need to reflect cultural sensitivity in addressing the needs of the different populations they serve. Cultural sensitivity is a step up from cultural competence and calls for organizations to have the humility to recognize that they can never be truly competent in all matters when it comes to working with various ethnic minorities. However, it is imperative that we are sensitive to how individuals are influenced and affected by their cultural backgrounds especially in their approach to mental health. And that we create a safe place for them to feel accepted while catering to their individual clinical needs. There is no one size fits all model for therapy; and interventions have to be adjusted and adapted to better serve all groups of people.

Lastly, we must address the funding gap that exists in our behavioral health care system.This would be not only to ensure that our quality of mental health services reflect the humanity in us all,    but that those who have chosen this field in order to help heal minds and souls are able to adequately support themselves and their familiesThis funding disparity also exists with the           professional development opportunities for employees of service providers.Historically,organizational budgets do not reflect the need for professional development and continued training.This  helps contribute  to employees’ lack of ability for further educational attainment and potential licensure.All which contributes to the effectiveness of the work they provide.We already know that poverty is a  contributor to mental illnesses such as anxiety and or depression,so our pay scales should be a direct acknowledgment of that contributing factor. While those who chose to work as mental health service providers will state that they did not enter into this career path with the hope of wealth, being income restricted can put strains on an individual’s mental health that affects the efficacy of the work they do.

We have more work to do! 


For more information, please visit UnitedWayBroward.org.

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