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Your Healthy Family: Barriers minorities say they face in getting mental healthcare

Your Healthy Family
Posted at 7:43 AM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-22 16:55:43-05

NAPLES, Fla. — In honor of Black History Month, Fox 4 is going in-depth and talking to a multi-racial clinician at the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health about barriers minorities face in getting mental healthcare.

Some barriers Sache Caceres, an outpatient clinician at David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health in Immokalee, says minorities face when it comes to getting help with mental health include:

  • Lack of representation
  • History of trauma
  • Lack of resources and awareness
  • Cost

When it comes to lack of representation, Caceres said patients often don't see themselves in their providers.

"A lot of times, people that don't see their likeness in their providers are not feeling embraced, are not feeling understood, accepted. So that is something that keeps people away from seeking out mental health services or healthcare in general; they don't feel that there will be seen, understood, and accommodated by their cultural needs," she said.

She said to change that narrative, it's important for clinicians to start by acknowledging their own culture as they're providing services.

"As well as acknowledge the culture of the person sitting across from you. It dictates care, it dictates diagnosis, it dictates treatment," Caceres said.

She also said clinicians need to acknowledge intersectionality.

"Where race meets gender, and all these things come together to affect the person. Because the issues that I might have, as a woman of color, might not be the issues of men of color, right? So it's important to recognize how intersectionality plays a role," she said.

When talking about other barriers, Caceres mentioned history and generational trauma.

"This cultural mentality of ‘Just tough it out because no one cares, because no one is out there to help you. And because no one else offering help looks like you, so therefore sees you as smaller than you actually are,'’" she said.

She said that mentality is a big reason why many people in minority communities don't get help.

“There's a long history of medical trauma within the black community; a lot of experimentation that occurred back in the day. And that already has created a scar within the community, within the culture, to stay away or protect themselves from providers that might cause harm," she said.

Caceres said it's critical that clinicians recognize this and tailor their treatments.

“In our eyes, because of historical trauma and generational trauma, that's the immediate stance that we take: is this person is capable of hurting me more than helping me if they so choose to," she said. “That humility piece in providers is incredibly important because it opens the door for us to see each other as equals, versus you have some advantage over me just by nature of your race.”

Caceres said lack of resources and awareness can be another barrier people who are minorities face. She said a 2019 report from the Florida Behavioral Health Association showed black youth doubled the numbers of suicides from their white counterparts.

“And that’s pre pandemic. So I can only imagine what the numbers are post pandemic, which is a scary thought to be honest with you," she said.

She said when you follow the funding:

"For example, in 2017, there were 57 completed suicides, to seven homicides. And those are two directions of funding that are completely opposite for each other. So when you recognize that there is an incredible need for mental health care to bring that 57 number down, it's interesting to me how that is being lost in translation,” Caceres said.

She said because of that, a lot of people don't know where to go to get help.

"We talk more about that police chase versus a lot of people are completing suicide because x, y and z. So I think that's a big reason why access to care is so limited, Caceres told Fox 4.

She said aside from being in underserved parts of Collier County, like Immokalee, the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health also offers services so that people don't have to seek them out for care.

"We have a variety of community services where we're going not only to homes of those who need that, but also out in the community; whether it be schools or health fairs, or whatever the case may be, we do have that outreach as well," she said.

In addition to lack of resources and awareness, Caceres said cost can be a barrier to getting mental healthcare. The David Lawrence Centers' mission includes "life saving and life changing behavioral healthcare available to all."

"And I think that's a big piece of how we get out there and how we become recognized by people, is that we have that "for all" emphasized there," Caceres said.

She said often times, people in minority communities see mental health treatment as a luxury.

“Health shouldn't be about money. It should be about needing it, and being willing to take the step and be vulnerable. Nonetheless, it is a very real issue because, obviously, socioeconomic status affects us all differently. So it's important that people know that there are options out there that will accommodate their financial needs as well," she said.

She said the David Lawrence Centers offers emergency services to all, regardless of income or insurance status and inability to pay.

“Which I think makes an incredible difference, as well as accommodating whatever socioeconomic status that person is bringing through a sliding scale services,"

That means the cost of treatment is based on household income and the number of people in the household.

“We offer medication assisted treatments, we offer medication management treatments, we offer treatments for mental health as well as substance use disorders. We have various levels of care, from emergency crisis level of treatments, to outpatient, which is what I do, to partial hospitalizations," Caceres said.

For more information on the David Lawrence Centers for Behavioral Health and the treatments they offer, click here.