September 9, 2022

Minority youth mental health may not be elementary

Support, talk about, and advocate for kids’ mental health. Otherwise, greater challenges in school and social growth are often experienced.

Being a child or teen can already be complicated. Being a member of a minority group and having mental health needs adds greater complexity. Racial, social, economic, and cultural disparities, and the stigma connected with seeking mental health care can negatively impact minority children and teens.

If these issues are left unaddressed, this segment of the population may encounter more social growth constraints and academic hurdles, which may lead to stifled opportunities for future success.

Diagnosis and care at the right time, in the right place

Minority youth, people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities are statistically more likely to feel sad, hopeless, and depressed — and are less likely to get mental health treatment.

“It is important to reflect on these points as they have a special impact on minority youth, including feelings of anger and shock,” said Evita Marie Rocha, MD, a child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist for Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. “Only by taking inventory on behavior can parents, guardians, and concerned adults start keeping a watchful eye for changes in appetite, increased irritability, spending more time alone, and more.”

Dr. Rocha explained, “I like to start with the example of glasses. Most of us know someone who, without glasses, would have difficulty seeing, get headaches, and fall behind in school. Depression and anxiety felt by our youth are biologic alterations in the brain, and just like some people need glasses, the same is true for getting mental health diagnoses and treatment at the right time and the right place.”

Kaiser Permanente is here to help

At Kaiser Permanente, we encourage parents and other caregivers to support, talk about, and advocate for kids’ mental health. Beginning conversations about mental health may be easier than many people think.

Explore our Find Your Words website. You’ll also find the Presence of Mind interactive video series, which provides tools to help young people manage their mental health and support their friends when they need it most.

Minority youth mental health may not always be elementary, but Kaiser Permanente understands mental health to provide much-needed support. When young people have mental health caregivers who resemble them and share similar life experiences, they are more likely to get a diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing support to help them on their way to a thriving future.