Since 2008, July has been known as Minority Mental Health Month. This year, individuals, communities and mental health organizations, including EDCare, are celebrating this month of advocacy and awareness by shifting the language from Minority Mental Health Month to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Month. This change represents greater inclusivity and a desire to help amplify the voices of individuals in these underrepresented communities.
According to Mental Health America, “the continued use of ‘minority or marginalized’ sets up BIPOC communities in terms of their quantity instead of their quality and removes their personhood… The word ‘minority’ also emphasizes the power differential between ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ groups and can make BIPOC feel as though ‘minority’ is synonymous with inferiority. Though ‘minority’ and ‘marginalized’ may continue to be used in academic spaces, the words the mental health community uses need to change in order to help communities understand how these terms create and perpetuate negative images and stereotypes of individuals that identify as BIPOC.”
The many facets of racism (individual, interpersonal, and institutional) undermine mental health. This means addressing racism is a mental health issue. As a nation, we need to increase public awareness about the mental health needs and disparities faced by members of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that members of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community are less likely to be diagnosed and treated for their mental illnesses, have less access to mental health services, and often receive a poorer quality of mental health care – this includes eating disorders.
- Black teenagers are 50% more likely than white teenagers to exhibit bulimic behavior, such as binging and purging (Goeree, Sovinsky, & Iorio, 2011).
- In a study of adolescents, researchers found that Hispanics were significantly more likely to suffer from bulimia nervosa than their non-Hispanic peers. The researchers also reported a trend toward a higher prevalence of binge eating disorder in all minority groups. (Swanson, 2011).
- Asian, Black, Hispanic and Caucasian youth all reported attempting to lose weight at similar rates, while among of Native American adolescents, 48.1% were attempting weight loss (Kilpatrick, Ohannessian, & Bartholomew, 1999).
- People of color with self-acknowledged eating and weight concerns were significantly less likely than white participants to have been asked by a doctor about eating disorder symptoms, despite similar rates of eating disorder symptoms across ethnic groups. (Becker, 2003).
EDCare stands in solidarity with the BIPOC community, and we strive to offer eating disorder treatment services in an inclusive and equal treatment environment. We recognize that – even as we strive to do this – we will fall short and need to continually re-evaluate in order to identify blind spots and gaps in between the inclusive care we seek to provide, and the inclusivity of the care we deliver. We are using this time to modify hiring practices, secure additional cultural trainings for staff, create cultural competency training packages for all employees, and most importantly continue this crucial conversation on a daily basis.
EDCare’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee