From The National Women's Health Information Center
Mental health is how a person thinks, feels, and acts when faced with life's situations. It is how people look at themselves, their lives, and the other people in their lives, evaluate their challenges and problems, and explore choices. This includes handling stress, relating to other people, and making decisions.
Mental health problems are real. They affect your thoughts, body, feelings, and behavior. Mental health problems are not just a passing phase. They can be severe, seriously interfere with your life, and even cause you to become disabled. Mental disorders constitute an immense burden on the U.S. population, with major depression now the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
In 2005, adults living below the poverty level were five times more likely to have serious psychological distress compared to adults over twice the poverty level. In general, minorities have less access to, and less availability of mental health services. From 2004-2005, mental illness was the second most frequent condition, after arthritis, causing activity limitation among adults.
- African Americans are more likely than whites to have a serious mental health disorder. African American and white women suffer from many of the same types of mental health disorders, but African-American women tend to have lower rates of major depression than white women, and higher rates of phobias. African Americans are less likely than whites to receive treatment for mental health problems. This may be because there is less trust in the medical community. Other reasons could include not having insurance or not being able to get to the doctor. In some communities, people may rely on their friends or religious community for support instead of seeing a doctor.
- Hispanic women tend to suffer from depression more often than Hispanic men. Depression is a major concern for Hispanic/Latina women. Hispanics/Latinos are less likely than whites to receive needed mental health services. In fact, 1 out of 15 Hispanics who suffer from depression is not able to get medical help. Some reasons for this may include language and cultural barriers, lack of health insurance or lack of money to pay for services. When they do seek help, Hispanics/Latinos are more likely to go to a general health care provider or clergy member than a mental health professional. In 2005, suicide attempts for Hispanic girls, grades 9-12, were 60% higher than for white girls in the same age group.
- Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian women and suffer from many of the same mental health disorders as white women. Asian Americans have slightly lower rates of mental illness than whites but seek treatment less often. Older Asian-American women have the highest suicide rate of all women over age 65 in the United States. For Asian Americans, how they view their own social status is a risk factor for mental illness. Those who think their social status is low tend to have more mental health problems. One study from the University of Washington found that Asian Americans who felt they were treated unfairly were more likely to show symptoms of depression. Getting treatment for mental illness can be a challenge for this group. Nearly one out of two Asian American/Pacific Islanders will have problems using mental health treatment because they do not speak English or can't find services that meet their language needs. Other reasons for this lack of treatment may include stigma, cultural beliefs, or not being able to access care.
- There is limited data on mental health problems in American Indian/Alaska Native women. But one study of American Indian/Alaska Native women by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that they were over three times as likely as white women to have had serious mental distress in the last month. Suicide is a major problem for young American Indians/Alaska Natives. While the overall death rate from suicide for American Indian/Alaska Natives is comparable to the white population, adolescent American Indian/Alaska Natives have death rates two to three times the rate for Whites in the same age groups. American Indians/Alaska Natives have the highest rates of suicide in the 15 to 24 age group.
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