diversity in mental health treatment blog

The Importance of Diversity in Mental Health Treatment


Each person’s life experience is unique; however race, culture, gender, and socio-economic status  will be influential on the experience. These experiences will determine stressors and how we  respond to stressors. When stressors occur in life, it often impacts a person’s mental health and  they become more open to the idea of mental health treatment. The receptiveness of mental  health treatment will be based on the person’s culture, accessibility, and the ability to connect  with the provider. For some cultures there is a hesitation with obtaining mental health services due to mistrust in communities with the mental health system. Research has shown that African  American and Latino communities in the US have expressed mistrust of clinicians as a product  of historical persecution as well as current issues of racism and discrimination (Gopalkrishnan  2018). The challenges that this discussion on the historical perspective raises is around mental  health systems that can work in more collaborative and power-sharing ways, and that work  deliberately toward empowering the communities that they work with (Gopalkrishnan 2018). 

diversity in mental health treatment blog

When seeking services, especially for people in the minority community, there is hesitancy not  only based on mistrust, but lack of cultural competence, as well as lack of diversity in the field.  As an African American woman, when I seek any type of services, I consider the following: will  the person understand or relate to my culture or struggle, will they care, do they actually want to  help me, and are they invested in me as a person. These questions are not only important for me  but important to anyone seeking mental health services. Considering the mistrust experienced by  the minority community and the need for cultural competence, it is essential that mental health  service providers are diverse. Diversity in mental health treatment will not only allow the client  to have options in regard to providers, but also eliminate the burden of explaining cultures,  customs, experiences of racism, and/ or discuss the impact of living as a person of color and its  impact on daily life stressors. Working with a person of color does not automatically mean a  shared experience, however having the option of speaking with someone who may be able to  relate to cultural concerns will be truly beneficial. 

Approximately 548,000 adults (9 %) in New York City experienced depression in 2016, of this  percent Latino adults (13 %) experienced depression at nearly twice the rate of White (7 %),  Black (8 %) and Asian and Pacific Islander (5 %) adults (New York City Department of Health  2018). Considering this data, the question that is often considered is, “What does the mental  health providers ratio look like based on race and culture”? According to the American  Psychological Association, in 2015, 86 percent of psychologists in the U.S. workforce were  white, 5 percent were Asian, 5 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were black/African American, and 1 percent were multiracial or from other racial/ethnic groups.1 This is less diverse than the  U.S. population as a whole, which is 62 percent white and 38 percent racial/ethnic minority  (American Psychological Association 2015). Considering this data, it can be a daunting  experience in regard to finding a mental health provider based on race and culture. These  statistics influenced me as an African American female in regard to furthering my education in  the field in order to provide mental health services in my community. I also encourage people of  color to promote change in our communities, especially by focusing on mental health services.  People of color should not only utilize the services, but also work in the field in order to be a part  of the much-needed diversity in this field.  

Educating the Community on Mental Health Treatment and Finding Services Providers  based on Race and Culture

Mental health treatment in communities with people of color continue to experience stigma and  avoidance of services, however with education in regard to the benefits with the utilization of  services, mental health treatment may be more embraced. People of color may also consider  mental health treatment if they feel services will be rendered by people who resemble their race,  culture, and gender. People of color should also be educated on mental health treatment evolving with technology. The evolution of technology has allowed telehealth services, which  are mental health services provided through video or tele remotely. While this service has  become extremely popular during the pandemic, this option provides people of color with  receiving diverse services no matter their location. Location often plays a role in obtaining  diverse services. Certain communities are more diverse than others which will impact diversity  in treatment in certain areas. Telehealth services allows for people of color to seek providers they  are more comfortable with despite their location. Another great feature with technology is websites tailored to finding diverse mental health providers. These websites allow a perspective  client the option of looking at pictures of the mental health provider, reviewing their specialty,  filtering race, language, and gender.  

By educating people of color in regard to options of diverse mental health providers, there will  be buy-in from the community with utilizing services. In turn, people of color will not only  utilize the services they will be interested in providing the services to their community. As  previously mentioned, as a woman of color, my providers ability to relate to me culturally will  impact my utilization of services. From first-hand experience, I can say that the field requires  more diversity, however this empowered me to be a part of the change that is very much needed.  I encourage people of color to not only utilize the services, but to be a part of the diversity  needed in the field. More diversity in the field will not only assist with different races and culture  embracing mental health services, but also remove stigmas associated with treatment,  incorporate racial bias, impacts of oppression, and culture into treatment. Mental health in  communities of people of color are becoming a priority and in order to meet the demands of this  priority it is essential for diversity in treatment. 


Gopalkrishnan. (2018). Cultural Diversity and Mental Health: Considerations for Policy and  Practice. Front Public Health, 179.  


Department of Health. (2018, April 16). Health Department Releases First Comprehensive  Report on Depression Among Adults in New York City.  



American Psychological Association (2015). Demographics of the U.S. psychology workforce:  Findings from the American Community Survey. Washington, DC: Author


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