People of color are not inherently more susceptible to mental illness or suicide, but when discrimination and systemic racism cause widespread trauma, stress, fear, and medical hesitancy, the impact on their mental health is significant. Oftentimes, the same systems that are contributing to increased mental health struggles are also barriers standing in the way of proper care and support.
To BIPOC individuals who feel isolated and alone in their struggles, you are heard. You deserve to have your pain recognized, and you deserve help that you can trust to listen and respect your experiences.
Taking a look at BIPOC mental health in the U.S. really means taking a closer look at cause and effect. It means asking why the numbers are the way they are. Taking in these statistics without context can be confusing and may make members of BIPOC communities feel like something is wrong with them, when really, there is something wrong with the system in which they are expected to function.
The amount of discrimination, racism, and violence a person is exposed to directly correlates with their likelihood to struggle with mental health challenges. Instead of finding support and equity in places like education, medical institutions, and the justice system, they are often met with micro-aggressions, bias, and unnecessary hurdles that cause their mental health struggles to become more severe.
People of color who enter incarceration are more likely to be subject to solitary confinement than white inmates, and 1 in 10 Black men are put in solitary confinement by the age of 32. This form of punishment is considered torture by the United Nations and can lead to PTSD, suicide, and psychosis.
Currently, those who identify themselves as multiracial have the highest rate of mental illness in the U.S. at 25%. Other communities of color follow with Native/Indigenous people at 23%, Black people at 17.3%, Latinx/Hispanic people at 15%, and the Asian American/Pacific Islander population at 13%. Between 2018 and 2021, each of these communities experienced a rise in suicide rates, while white people were the only racial or ethnic group to see rates drop.
People of color need mental health support, and they deserve a world where treatment and kindness is not withheld on the basis of their race and ethnicity. They deserve to meet with providers who they can trust, who understand their language, and who respect their culture. It is crucial that as we continue fighting for mental health care and suicide prevention, these communities do not get left behind.