July was Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. During this month, the mental health community works to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness in the United States. As we come to a close on our campaign month, we reflect on how addressing underrepresented populations should actually be a year-long effort.

By digging through minority mental health data that Mental Health America (MHA) collected through our screening program, we’ve gained some knowledge about the needs and challenges of underserved groups. This information provides some insight into policy- and program- based actions we can take to better support people. Below are some of the most important findings from the 2017 data.

Most scored positive

Understanding the needs of our diverse population is important. More importantly, it’s an issue we should think about all year long.

Seventy three percent of all visitors who came to take a screen scored positive for having a mental illness. However, those who self-identified as Native American or multiracial had the highest risk for mental illness. Seventy nine percent of these groups scored positive for a mental health problem. We should make sure we’re building up capacity to meet the unique needs of these populations.

Access matters

African American screeners were the most likely to say they would do something, like talk to someone about next steps or finding treatment after screening (74 percent vs. 68 percent in the general populations). African American screeners were also significantly more likely to say they wanted immediate phone support (23 percent vs. 12 percent). Access to care in their neighborhoods was the main issue, not stigma. We should not let discussion about stigma prevent us from making sure people have access to the care they are trying to find.

Cultural differences are evident

Those who screened and identified as Asian were the most unsure about the next steps and were also the least likely to have past or current treatment. Thirty eight percent of Asians said they would do nothing after screening compared to 31 percent in the general population. Only 16 percent of Asians had exposure to treatment compared to 31 percent among the general population. To support Asian communities, we can increase knowledge and address fears by increasing access to community-based and culturally-sensitive education.

At risk youth need help

Finally, our LGBTQ community is struggling. More LGBTQ youth are looking for answers than any other population. While the CDC reports that 2.3 percent of our population identify as LGBTQ, 14 percent of screeners who visit www.mhascreening.org identify as LGBTQ. These youth are more likely to screen positive (81 percent vs. 73 percent) and more likely to take screens that indicated high stress and risk, like the psychosis screen. Isolation and discrimination are serious risk factors we should consider if we want to support LBGTQ youth.

Understanding the needs of our diverse population is important. More importantly, it’s an issue we should think about all year long. We need to address these issues and invest in our youth B4Stage4.