I have recently come across an article about a new project started by Dior Vargas that attempts to de-construct and challenge the notion that only white people live with psychological disorders.
As a white person myself, there is a limited of commentary I can make on this project. However, I believe that this project is fantastic. People of color who live with psychological disorders are routinely erased from our society’s narratives. Or if the intersection is present, it is to demonize the person further.
More importantly perhaps, this project brings into our narrative the disproportionate amount of people of color who live with psychological disorders. As this infograph shows, the amount of suicides committed by Native women is disproportionately high. And this project can help us question why? What is it in our society, what is it that people of color experience that causes many of them psychological distress and triggers?
One aspect of this problem is of course cultural/societal- the racism and other forms of oppression these folks experience is often traumatic, triggering, etc. Another aspect however is lack of access to health care. According to a report produced by Massachusetts Health Policy forum, ” found that 29.2 percent of Latino adults with mental illness received treatment compared to 51.5 percent of whites. Blacks and Asians had slightly lower rates of treatment than whites. The disparities are greater in the United States as a whole.” What makes it worse is that often times people of color are also less likely to be insured, so if they do overcome ethnic/racial/cultural barriers and do have some access to mental health care, they often are uninsured. For example, in Tennessee, Latinas/os are 30% more likely to be uninsured than whites.
Of course the issue is even more complex than that, with family dynamics, access to education, economic class status, gender, etc having an effect on the situation. However, the project is an amazing step toward mental health justice because it opens up a conversation on the intersection between race and mental health.