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July is BIPOC Mental Health Month

Observed each July and originally designated as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, BIPOC Mental Health Month highlights the unique mental health challenges and needs of historically disenfranchised or oppressed racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Black and Indigenous people and other people of color (BIPOC) experience a broad spectrum of ongoing discrimination, oppression, and inequity rooted in America’s colonialist history, all of which foster both collective and individual trauma in those communities.

Counselors, therapists and other mental health professionals are essential to promoting the mental health and well-being of people in BIPOC communities and addressing the systemic discrepancies in quality of and access to care for these individuals. By providing counselors with the support, education, and professional resources needed to serve BIPOC clients, we can work together to create deep multicultural competence and provide effective care for the mental health of every individual.


Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Mental Health Care

Race and ethnicity breakdown of Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC) in the U.S.*

Racial Ethnic Chart

*Source: Zippia career demographics

“Within the mental health profession, there is a lack of diversity. Institutions, boards, and organizations should increase their role in creating pipelines to the field for people of color and addressing barriers for aspiring mental health professionals.”
- Dr. Rufus Tony Spann, LPC

Color Me Brave Series:
Candid conversations about race, equity and quality of care

The American Counseling Association’s Color Me Brave series highlights issues related to communities, the workplace, and personal experiences that are central to mental health and well-being of BIPOC individuals. This Facebook Live series features candid conversations with various experts about topics like workplace diversity and community crisis intervention teams.

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Common Barriers to Mental Health Care for People in BIPOC Communities

While the term “BIPOC” encompasses a huge range of racial and ethnic communities and identities, many of which intersect in complex ways, there are several common barriers to mental health care for most individuals in these groups.

Stigma and Fear

Language and culture differences

Communication is a cornerstone of successful counseling and mental health treatment and even the smallest differences in language and cultural beliefs can make a huge difference in any practice setting for people of all ages. Language barriers not only affect communication between practitioner and client but can also prevent many people from finding mental health care providers and understanding their eligibility for that care.

Socioeconomic Disparity

Socioeconomic disparities

Poverty and unemployment are often a direct result of racial bias and discrimination and in turn lead to several challenges including lack of health insurance, limited availability of providers, lack of transportation to therapy appointments, and the full spectrum of mental illnesses that result from living in poverty. These disparities also create additional barriers to education and professional training for the mental health care field for individuals in these communities, further contributing to representation and language/culture discrepancies.

Stigma and Fear

Stigma and fear

Negative associations with mental health conditions are common to many racial and ethnic groups and often impede efforts to seek out treatment. In some cases, needing mental health support might be perceived as a sign of weakness which is problematic for individuals who are already the subject of discrimination. In other cases, there might be cultural beliefs that discourage open conversation about personal or family issues that affect mental health.

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Legal or immigration status

There is a practical level of vulnerability in relation to seeking out care for anyone not born in the United States. Whether someone is an undocumented immigrant or the process of applying for citizenship, fear of jeopardizing their place and status in the U.S. can prevent them from pursuing a range of health care services.

Provider Bias

Provider bias and incompetence

Misdiagnosis and ineffective or inadequate treatment are common experiences for many people whose racial identity does not match that of their health care provider. Both conscious and unconscious bias result in clients’ symptoms and feelings being dismissed. That dismissal often results in not just a failure to provide treatment but also in further harm being done, which in turn leads to client mistrust and an unwillingness to seek out further care.

To learn more about the barriers to mental health care for BIPOC communities, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness “Identity and Cultural Dimensions” page.

Join Our Counseling Community!

Building trust and establishing a safe relationship between practitioner and client are foundational to professional counseling work. Let's work together to ensure that every community in every state has access to licensed mental health care professionals who have the training, knowledge and commitment to serving clients of every race, culture and identity.

Become an ACA member today and learn more about the resources and services we offer.

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