Mental Health Disparities and Covid-19
As the country absorbs the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, we face a bereavement crisis borne disproportionately by minority communities. New data show that in 2020, deaths among non-Hispanic white people have been 11.9% higher than average. In contrast, the increases have been much more severe in the Latinx community (53.6% higher), the Asian community (36.6% higher), the Black community (32.9% higher), and in American Indians and Alaskan Natives (28.9% higher). These death rates correlate with racial and ethnic disparities in the incidence of Covid-19 and reflect the disproportionate burden experienced by communities of color.
Before the pandemic, these communities already faced mental health disparities due to multiple factors, including lack of access to mental health services, cultural stigma, and discrimination. These disparities are widening as Covid-19 generates more mental health conditions and creates new barriers for those already suffering from mental health and substance use disorders. Some of the ways Covid-19 has exacerbated mental health issues include:
- Social isolation and loneliness
- Job loss and financial insecurity
- Increased anxiety in those with frail health
- Increased burnout in front-line and health workers
- Grief and mourning in those who have lost loved ones due to Covid-19
The Path Ahead: Equity & Covid-19
Dr. Joseph Betancourt is a Quality Interactions co-founder and practicing physician who attends to a culturally diverse patient population. Amid the pandemic, Dr. Betancourt has developed strategies to uncover Covid-related mental health issues and respectfully communicate with patients to address what is typically a very sensitive area. He shared his thoughts in the first session of our 3-part webcast series on The Path Ahead: Equity & Covid-19.
In the session, titled "The Pandemic's Impact on Mental Health," Dr. Joseph Betancourt refers to mental health problems as "an epidemic within a pandemic." He points to pandemic-related increases in four areas: PTSD, general anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder.
Dr. Betancourt suggests four strategies the healthcare industry can employ to mitigate mental health disparities amid the pandemic.
- Pay attention to the data, including the varied ways patients may present emotional distress.
- Destigmatize depression, anxiety, and trauma by discussing how these are natural responses to the circumstances of Covid-19.
- Make mental health care more accessible using virtual care.
- Leverage mental health professionals' diversity so patients can talk to people who look like them, speak the same language, and share a common understanding.
Watch the video above for more insights and detailed recommendations for improving cross-cultural care in mental health and depression.
Register now to join us for the remaining two sessions of the live series:
- November 5: Ensuring Equity in Virtual Healthcare
- November 12: The Promise of a New Vaccine
Mental Health Resources:
PDF: NAMI's Covid-19 Resource and Information Guide
Webinar: The Mental Health Effects of Covid-19 on Communities of Color
Video: Covid-19 Mental Health Issues and Coping
Training: Cross-Cultural Care in Mental Health and Depression