Millions of people are affected by mental health conditions each year. Unfortunately, more than half of them either delay seeking treatment or do not get help at all due to the associated stigma. Stigma causes people to feel ashamed, be concerned about being treated differently, or fear the loss of their livelihood due to something that is out of their control.

Mental health stigma is among the factors contributing to Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) being less likely than White people to receive treatment.[1] In 2020, 5.7% of Asian Americans, 9.4% of Black people or African Americans, and 10.7% of Hispanic or Latinx people received mental health services, compared to 21% of White people.[2]

What you can do

With compassion and support, people can recover and lead happier, healthier lives. Treatment is available and recovery is possible. But overcoming stigma is a critical first step in the process.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) offers some suggestions about what we can do as individuals to help reduce the stigma of mental illness:

  1. Talk openly about mental health—and discuss it no differently than physical health.
  2. Show compassion for those with mental health challenges.
  3. Be conscious of language—remind people that words matter.
  4. Educate yourself and others—respond to misperceptions or negative comments by sharing facts and experiences.
  5. Encourage equality between physical and mental illness—draw comparisons to how they would treat someone with cancer or diabetes.
  6. Be honest about treatment—normalize mental health treatment, just like other healthcare treatment.
  7. Let the media know when they are presenting stories of mental illness in a stigmatizing way.

Additional mental health support and resources for BIPOC

On July 20 Magellan Healthcare hosted a webinar, “Navigating mental healthcare: Unique challenges faced by the BIPOC community,” for BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month. I participated on the panel, along with Karen Zelaya-Kendall, Ph.D., Magellan Healthcare senior care manager psychologist; Edna Richardson, MSW, LCSW, LFD, Magellan Healthcare senior care manager; and Deborah Price, CFPS, Magellan Healthcare family support coordinator.

Watch a recording of the webinar as we explore different roles in behavioral healthcare and overcoming stigma to help BIPOC feel more knowledgeable and comfortable about reaching out for help: https://www.magellanhealthcare.com/event/navigating-mental-healthcare/.

Visit Magellanhealthcare.com/BIPOC-MH for more information and resources covering racism, stigma and more for BIPOC mental health.


[1] “Mental Health Disparities: Diverse Populations” American Psychiatric Association

[2] 2020 SAMHSA National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) Adult Mental Health Tables