July is recognized as National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. As an organization that provides a variety of mental health services for children and adults, DePelchin understands and seeks to address the unique barriers that minority communities face when trying to access mental health care.
DePelchin’s mental health services include school-based counseling at some campuses serving high-needs students, as well as in-person and virtual counseling for children, parents and other family members. Our counseling program is an important part of our effort to prevent the maltreatment of children and keep families safe.
This month is important not only because we serve a diversity of children and families in our mental health programs, but also because we know that minority communities face some unique challenges in getting the care they need. For example:
- A lack of bilingual therapists is a major barrier to care. Even in Houston, which has a large Hispanic population, there are not enough therapists who speak Spanish. Plus, there are little-to-no services available for minority families who speak a language other than English or Spanish. Some use a translator, but this can be both cost-prohibitive and not conducive to building a trusting relationship with a therapist.
- Families that lack financial resources have limited choices when it comes to finding a counselor or therapist and must often rely on no-cost services. As a result, the counselors available to them may or may not share similar cultural backgrounds. While counselors are trained in cultural humility and cultural sensitivity, clients may still find it more difficult to build a therapeutic relationship with someone from a different background.
- Another challenge arises from stigmas related to mental health. Some may be reluctant to access mental health services because their culture sees this as a weakness or believes that mental health issues should be handled either within the family or by the church. There is also a strong lack of trust in the system from minority families based on generations of bad experiences. Families may also worry that seeking no-cost counseling will jeopardize their immigration status.
Because meeting the mental health needs of children and families is such an important part of our work, DePelchin tries to address these and other barriers in order to make services available to people of all backgrounds.
“While many of the issues that non-white and minority clients face are similar to issues and challenges faced by all clients, there are definitely some additional concerns that these clients face that make finding and accessing mental health services more of a challenge,” said Dr. Charity Eames, DePelchin’s Director of Clinical Services. “DePelchin tries to mitigate these concerns by hiring a diverse group of counselors, by providing as many services as possible in Spanish or a client’s native language, and by talking with families to allay concerns regarding mental health stigmas or concerns about how accessing services may affect benefits or immigration status.”
During this month and throughout the year, we are grateful for all who strive to meet the mental health needs of diverse communities. We are also grateful for those who seek counseling and other services for children and other members of their families. Finally, we appreciate the supporters who make it possible for DePelchin to offer these and other critical services.