The mental health landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years. What hasn’t changed however, is the disparity experienced by the people in BIPOC communities to access mental health resources.
The all-encompassing nature of the pandemic has aggravated disparities for
communities that were already vulnerable. Mental Health First Aid reported that 48% of White Americans received mental health services, compared to 31% of Black Americans and Latinx/Hispanic Americans and 22% of AAPI populations during the pandemic.
Preventing mental health disparities among people of color starts with understanding the unique challenges and experiences that can lead to mental health problems. This includes recognizing the impact of things like discrimination, racism, and poverty on mental health. It’s also important to understand that not all people of color experience mental health problems in the same way.
There are many different ways to prevent mental health disparities among people of color. Some approaches focus on increasing access to mental health resources, while others focus on promoting prevention and early intervention. Most cultures have their own strengths and approaches in which their residents are familiar with and feel comfortable utilizing. But it is very hard to find access to familiar resources for individuals and families who migrate or identify with intersectional cultural backgrounds.
One Canadian based start-up is doing just that – bring familiar and effective culturally-sensitive mental health resources to individuals who need them! Mind-Easy, a women-led digital mental health platform, is re-imagining the world of mental health, keeping the experiences of people of color at the core of its mission.
Mind-Easy provides culturally sensitive and clinically validated mental health resources through their easy to use mobile application. Their resources are primarily self-help and are designed to offer a private and confidential space for individuals to think through and process their emotions and experiences. Individuals who are struggling can interact with human-like avatars of different ethnicities and in various languages to best suit their needs and increase their sense of safety.
“I remember how difficult it was for me to access a therapist in my region who was educated and informed on my culture and background when I needed help,” says Alexandra Assouad, CEO and Co-Founder of Mind-Easy.
“We created the platform so others of diverse backgrounds wouldn’t have to go through the same struggles we did,” she added.
Mental health issues affect everyone, but people of color — Black, Latinx, Asian and Native American people — have higher rates of some mental health disorders and face greater disparities in getting help than their White counterparts. These issues can be attributed to due the lack of access to services resulting from institutional discrimination, interpersonal racism and stigma — which can all harm the psyche of people of color in places where they are not the majority.
“Language and cultural barriers almost always play a greater deterrent role to getting effective support than just inadequate access. Some people of color want to be treated by people who “get them,” and many mental health professionals aren’t trained in cultural competence or are knowledgeable in the clients’ cultures”, said Dalia Ahmed, the Chief Clinical Officer of Mind-Easy.
Additionally, the mental health profession has been underfunded and difficult to access for decades, hence these communities of color further face geographic and financial barriers to getting help.
With increasing demands for therapists and the lack of cultural competence amongst those available, people of color are left with exasperating wait times and no access to mental health resources really geared towards their life and experiences.
In 2019, a survey of psychologists by the American Psychological Association revealed that only 3% of psychologists in the United States were Black, 7% as Hispanic, 4% as Asian, compared to 83% white.
Mind-Easy solves these two major challenges by bringing skills, knowledge and education to their fingertips – and in ways that consider cultural background. Their platform incorporates interventions from several evidence-based disciplines of mental health and intends to equip its users with self-help resources that can be accessed anytime and anywhere.
Inclusion and diversity are at the heart of Mind-Easy approach to enabling users access mental health resources. Resources and psycho-education content is available in over 20 different languages and all delivered through their unique avatars.
“Our mission is to empower our users to take control of their mental health, so that they can take charge of their own wellbeing and can be educated on how it can affect their day to day life”, added Ahmed.
You can download the Mind-Easy app here: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/mind-easy/id1628453321