NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Surgeon General's Report: Minorities Lack Mental-Health Treatment Options

August 27, 2001

A new report from the U.S. Surgeon General finds ethnic and racial minorities have fewer treatment options available for mental problems. Dr. David Satcher claims minorities in the U.S. "suffer a disproportionate burden of mental illness" because they often have less access to services than other Americans, receive lower quality care and are less likely to seek help when they are in distress.

Here are some of the conclusions of the report:

  • While serious mental disorders like depression, schizophrenia, panic disorder, manic-depression and substance abuse occur in all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic classes, minorities tend to be over-represented among those most vulnerable and in need of mental health treatment.
  • The groups include the poor, the homeless, the institutionalized, the incarcerated and the survivors of traumatic experiences.
  • Because of the stigma attached to mental illness in some minority cultures, there is often a reluctance to use services even when they are available.

Satcher recommended more research in this area and greater cultural awareness on the part of mental-health professionals.

Source: Erica Goode, "Disparities Seen in Mental Care for Minorities," New York Times, August 27, 2001; based on U.S. Public Health Service, "Mental Health: Culture, Race and Ethnicity, A Supplement To Mental Health: A Report Of The Surgeon General ," 2001, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services, Rockville, Md.


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