BELLEVILLE, IL - According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental illness is a leading cause of disability, yet nearly two-thirds of people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek treatment, and racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. are even less likely to get help.
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and Allsup, a nationwide provider of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation, is raising awareness of the importance of treatment in improving mental health and accessing resources that support wellness.
“Unfortunately, disparities in mental health care still prevent people in diverse communities from getting the treatment they need,” said NAMI Multicultural Action Center director Majose Carrasco. “The outcomes of poorer quality of care come at a high cost to our community.”
The U.S. Surgeon General reported in 2001 that minorities:
Are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness.
Have less access to and availability of mental health services.
Often receive a poorer quality of mental health care.
Are underrepresented in mental health research.
“Poorly delivered or unmet mental health may be a major contributing factor as to why individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups are overrepresented in many of the nation’s most vulnerable populations,” said Henry Acosta, executive director of the National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health (NRCHMH).
Mental disorders are as disabling as cancer or heart disease in terns of premature death and lost productivity. From 2005-06, mental illness was the second-most frequent condition, after arthritis, causing activity limitation among adults 18-44 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Social Security Administration reports that nearly one-third of disabled workers receiving SSDI benefits have a mental disorder.
The SSDI program provides monthly income based on the FICA taxes individuals have paid during their working years as well as eventual access to Medicare. Both of these benefits contribute to stability and access to care for people with mental illness. However, obtaining these benefits is difficult without medical evidence of a severe disability.
“Medical documentation from mental health professionals is critical when seeking Social Security disability benefits,” said David Bueltemann, Allsup manager of senior claims representatives. “Social Security relies on medical diagnoses and details about the doctors they visit, information on the medical facilities they’ve used, medications and their side effects, as well as information on the restrictions and limitations that have resulted from the mental illness.”
“Treatment works and all Americans deserve a transformed mental health system that provides quality and culturally competent services to all citizens, regardless of their race, ethnic and language capabilities,” said Mr. Acosta.
The National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health is a private nonprofit charitable organization dedicated to promoting quality mental health services through policy development initiatives, training, technical assistance, research, data collection, best practice development, and anti-stigma and anti-discrimination campaigns. The NRCHMH specifically aims to reduce disparities and to increase treatment quality and availability of mental health services for Hispanics throughout the nation.