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Alex Smurthwaite is the volunteer newsletter editor for NAMI Clackamas, a Milwaukie-based nonprofit

Minority stress is a term that psychologists use to understand the mental health consequences of being a member of a minority community.

Obviously, being a minority — i.e. being trans, black, Muslim, or dyslexic — doesn't cause mental illness any more than being a marathon runner causes a person to trip on their own shoelaces. Such an idea is ridiculous.

Being treated differently, however, can cause a person to feel stressed. This stress can manifest itself in the form of mental illness.

Unfortunately, the consequences of this stress are well documented in minority communities. In 2017, a third of multi-racial adults experienced a mental illness; in 2017, only a fifth of Asian-Americans with a mental illness actually sought treatment; in 2017, sexual minorities were more than twice as likely to develop a mental illness than straight people; and in 2017, transgender individuals were nine times as likely to attempt suicide than the general public.

Alex SmurthwaiteJuly is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The month was designated as such in 2008 to honor Bebe Moore Campbell, who co-founded the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Urban Los Angeles and advocated for mental health education and support.

Campbell understood the need for diverse communities to root out stigma and provide support for those living with mental illnesses and their families.

As diverse people, we need to be able to look to our communities for support. The people who can best help us are often the people who know what we are going through.

As diverse people, we choose to identify ourselves not by our struggles, but by our actions in the face of adversity.

Resources for minority populations:

Conexiones: 503-327-8205

Asian Health & Service Center: 503-872-8822

Native American Rehabilitation Association 503-224-1044

OHSU Avel Gordly Center for Healing: 503-418-5311

Q Center: 503-234-7837

Alex Smurthwaite is the volunteer newsletter editor for NAMI Clackamas (namicc.org), a Milwaukie-based nonprofit that has been providing education, support and advocacy for all those affected by mental health issues since 1978.


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