February 20, 2023 is the World Day of Social Justice, a day designated by the United Nations to promote social justice initiatives around the globe. On this important day, we recognize the social injustice that occurs too often in the realm of mental health. In Scientific American, Ruth S. Shim and Sarah Y. Vinson write, "The mental health of American society, particularly its marginalized members, is ravaged by the intentional, avoidable, inequitable distribution of resources, opportunities and basic protections." Societal inequality affects mental health in two main ways. First, groups that experience persistent discrimination and oppression are more likely to suffer from mental illness; second, those same groups are less likely to have access to resources and services to help them.
The negative mental health outcomes of social injustice are severe. Frequent exposure to racism has been linked to numerous mental and physical health problems for Black Americans. Dr. Regine King writes, "Social injustices suck the life blood from individuals and families. They impact their self-worth, agency, self-confidence, and evaluation of their abilities. It is tragic that social injustices create suspicion, perpetual self-questioning, despair, and a sense of isolation that can be very difficult to bear, and even loss of life." This is tragically illustrated by the significantly higher rates of suicide among transgender youths when compared to their cisgender peers.
Furthermore, marginalized people have difficulty accessing culturally sensitive treatment. A Harvard study found that 32% of surveyed Black Americans reported that they have experienced racial discrimination in a healthcare setting, and that 22% avoid seeking healthcare out of fear of discrimination. This may explain why Black women are half as likely to seek support for depression than white women, although both groups are equally prone to depression. This lack of treatment results in lower quality of life for people in marginalized communities, and creates conditions for further social stigmatization of these groups.
While resolving social injustice is a complex task, mental healthcare providers are responsible for acknowledging their own cultural biases, both explicit and implicit. Furthermore, communities must ensure that they can provide mental healthcare services that are appropriate and accessible for every person who requires them. In Wayne and Holmes County, we and our partner organizations strive to fully understand and meet the needs of our diverse population.
If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness and in need of compassionate, culturally sensitive care, please reach out to one of our community partners, including:
The Counseling Center of Wayne and Holmes County: (330) 264-9029
ANAZAO: (330) 264-9597
OneEighty: (330) 464-1423
Wayne/Holmes Mental Health & Recovery Board
We aim to improve awareness of and access to mental health and addiction treatment and prevention services in Wayne & Holmes Counties.
We provide leadership, support, and funding to community partners and agencies in the delivery of mental health and addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services.
Our agencies provide addiction treatment programs, mental health counseling, suicide prevention programming, and more.