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Addressing Mental Health Needs in Inner-City Communities

Though awareness regarding mental health conditions is growing, it isn’t a given in all communities. While rates of mental illness vary across demographic groups, some populations face additional vulnerabilities or lack adequate resources for treatment and support. Inner-city communities commonly experience significant numbers of underdiagnosed and undertreated mental health conditions. Untreated mental health conditions perpetuate long-standing conditions with cascading effects that could have been remedied through a more proactive and equitable approach to care.

Elevating the mental health of an entire community is never an easy task. And when it involves populations who historically have received far less support than they need, adding mental health resources and protocols can sometimes be an uphill battle. It is essential to tackle inner-city mental health needs with care, intentionality, sensitivity, and patience.

Mental Health Care in Urban Settings

Lawmakers in the United States have approved a number of significant mental health policies, particularly during the last half-century, that help protect citizens from being denied insurance because of preexisting mental health conditions. These laws also protect those with mental illnesses or a mental health history from being discriminated against while seeking employment.

Though these overarching protections have helped lay a solid foundation for mental health policy and provision in the United States, this doesn’t guarantee necessary resources and mental health support for every community in the country. Mental health resources are ultimately delivered most effectively at the community or municipal level. While some cities and areas have created effective frameworks to provide adequate mental health for their constituents, this isn’t the case in many others.

Creating Effective Mental Health Interventions

As with any public health initiative, community mental health provision requires a nuanced, in-depth understanding in a few key areas of concern. It also requires adept program design and management to enact mental health supports that prove effective and long-lasting. The following recommendations are essential to creating mental health support for inner-city communities.

Listen First

When creating any type of support structure to meet community-wide needs, efforts that don’t first include a concerted period of listening and learning are destined to fail. Even if you have a strategy in mind before setting foot in a community, and even if it is based on plenty of precedent or research or success in other areas, the community will not embrace it willingly if it is not created in collaboration and partnership with existing leaders and stakeholders.

Work to Understand the Community You’re Trying to Serve

The conversation surrounding mental health can look vastly different amongst varying communities and demographics. Inner-city spaces with large concentrations of Blacks are heavily influenced by Black cultural dynamics and trends. Delivering mental health initiatives in Black communities must be approached differently than providing the same types of resources to majority White communities. The same is true for Hispanic, Asian, or other non-White majority communities. Without a solid foundation of cultural awareness and understanding, interventions may feel forced, irrelevant, or “other.”

Always Be Open to Feedback and Criticism

Without flexibility and a continued willingness to adapt and change, interventions become stale or ineffective. Interventions and policies will always have naysayers. While it’s impossible to act on every bit of feedback received, it’s vital to give weight to the words of key stakeholders, leaders, participants, and community members.

Another avenue for soliciting constructive criticism is inviting external bodies, healthcare providers, mental health advocates, and leadership from similar initiatives in other geographical areas to observe and evaluate your offerings. Positive feedback might be encouraging, but critical feedback helps you improve. Don’t shy away from it.

Change and Grow

No intervention lasts forever without maintenance. Experiencing initial success can sometimes be worse for an initiative because it leads to stagnancy. If you are a mental health provider offering care or resources to inner-city communities, setting up a continual feedback loop is crucial. Establishing a dynamic information loop helps ensure that you stay attuned to the shifting needs, demographics, desires, and characteristics of the population you serve. This can be accomplished in several ways.

You can issue surveys, whether by paper, electronic means, formal consultations, or a different format, to gather qualitative and quantitative data that can shape and inform your delivery. You can also encourage staff and volunteers to build personal relationships with clients and ask for feedback and suggestions to improve the program.

Mental health programs and offerings vary widely in approach, scope, format, and nature. Examples exist of vital, robust mental health initiatives that have fundamentally changed inner-city communities. However, for every success story, there are plenty of counterexamples. Well-meaning mental health initiatives have fallen into disrepair or dormancy because they weren’t built by incorporating the feedback and needs of the communities they were meant to serve.

By following the recommendations proposed here, policy-makers and planners can build mental health services that are made to last, with significant positive impacts on inner-city communities.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Sarah Daren has been a consultant for startups in multiple industries, including health and wellness, wearable technology, nursing, and education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life, including her position as a yoga instructor and raising her two children.

May Is Mental Health Month 2022

“Back to Basics”

May is Mental Health Month, a time to spread public awareness and education about mental health disorders and reflect on the impact of mental illness on individuals and their families.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Month is “Back to Basics.” The goal this May is to provide foundational knowledge about mental health and mental health conditions and spread information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern.

It is also a time to recognize and commit to changing the racial and economic inequities in our health care system, particularly with respect to mental health.

www.rtor.org and Laurel House are committed to the advancement of racial equity and social justice, and to making mental health services accessible to all.

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The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.

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