July is Minority Mental Health Month. A local child psychiatrist tells us about the challenges minorities are facing and the progress that is being made to help them.
For more than a decade, Minority Mental Month has highlighted the particular issues minority communities face when it comes to accessing mental health care.
"Minorities don't have as much access in general to out-patient services that would prevent in-patient services."
Michelle Fontenelle-Gilmer is a child psychiatrist at Southern Hills Hospital. She says minorities tend to be underrepresented in out-patient programs and over-represented in in-patient programs, which often require hospitalization. She says this is the case across the country because minorities often don't have the access to lower-levels of care.
"They're having to get high levels of care and unfortunately then they go back out and they can't get the lower levels of care that help them to go forward."
To help anyone with a mental health issue move forward, Fontenelle-Gilmer says it's important to provide transitional services.
Often in minority communities, Fontenelle-Gilmber says there's still a stigma around mental health, making asking for help difficult. She says that's why integrating mental health services into physical health care has been helpful.
"Often we'll have someone who has no problem going to a primary care doctor or a pediatrician addressing their needs there but having mental health services that are actually located in the same place has been a movement for quite a while."
She says ultimately, people need to understand mental and physical health are one in the same - equally important.