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July is Minority Mental Health Month

July is Minority Mental Health Month


Lincoln – During National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in July, the Division of Behavioral Health (DBH) at the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are determined to make sure that everyone who needs mental health care receives it. Poor mental health care access and quality of care contribute to poor mental health outcomes, including suicide, among racial and ethnic minority populations.

“While millions of Americans struggle with the reality of mental health conditions – whether they themselves have mental health conditions or their loved ones, the life experiences, education, income, race and ethnicity of an individual can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult,” said Sheri Dawson, director of the Division of Behavioral Health at DHHS. “We encourage all our communities to talk about the importance of mental healthcare and treatment to help break down barriers, such as negative perceptions about mental illness.”


Of the 32,579 consumers in Nebraska who received community-based services from the Division of Behavioral Health in FY2018, 3.3% were Native American; 0.6% were Asian; 8.4% were Black; 0.4% were Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders; 72.1% were White; 1.3% were two or more races; 3.7% were categorized as “other”, and race was not available for 10.2%.


“Unfortunately, COVID-19 has significantly impacted racial and ethnic minority communities in Nebraska.  Existing difficulties in accessing healthcare can compound the challenges many minority populations face during a public health event, such as the ongoing pandemic. Stress related to COVID can also have an impact on individuals, so it is important that culturally competent behavioral health care is provided to everyone in need,” said Josie Rodriguez, administrator for the Office of Health Disparities and Health Equity in the Division of Public Health at DHHS.


The 2020 Nebraska Health Disparities Report notes:


  • In Nebraska, 37.9% of American Indians, 24.2% African-Americans, 15% of Hispanics and 11.8% of Asians reported currently smoking cigarettes, compared to 19% of Whites.
  • American Indians reported the highest alcohol-related death rate at 86.9% per 100,000, as compared to Whites at 31 per 100,000.
  • A higher percentage of American Indians reported binge drinking (21.9%) in the past 30 days, compared to other minority populations. African Americans (15.7%) and Hispanics (15.2%) were notably more likely to binge drink than Asians (9.1%).
  • Whites reported the highest percentage of binge drinking individuals in the past 30 days at 23.4%.
  • English proficient Asians (17.5%) were the most likely population to report being mentally unwell on ten or more days in the past 30 days, while limited English speaking Asians (5.0%) were the least likely population to report the same.
  • English-proficient African-Americans (11.5%) and Hispanics (9.2%) were both slightly more likely to report being mentally unwell for ten or more days in the past 30 days than limited English speaking African Americans (10.3%) and Hispanics (8.4%), respectively.
  • The alcohol-related death rate for American Indians (86.9 per 100,000) was 2.8 times higher than that of Whites (31 per 100,000) from 2011-2015. African Americans also had a death rate somewhat higher than Whites at 46.1 per 100,000. Hispanics (29.6 per 100,000) and Asians (15.6 per 100,000) had the lowest alcohol-related death rates.
  • From 2006-2010 to 2011-2015, the alcohol-related death rate increased in all populations. However, the increase was by less than one percentage point among Asians and Hispanics. Between the two five-year periods, American Indians saw an increase in the alcohol-related death rate of 8.6 points, while African Americans saw an increase of 4.9 points.
  • 6% of Black, 6.7% of American Indian, 4.1% of Hispanic and 3.7% Hispanic Nebraskans reported heavily drinking in the last 30 days, compared to 7.2% of White Nebraskans.

“Be a champion for mental health in your community. Community conversations are taking place across the country and in Nebraska. Give people a chance to learn more about mental health issues and how to reach individuals in their community,” said Dawson. “Every community can start a conversation. There are so many partners ready to have new conversations where cultural humility can build new partnerships. As DBH embarks on its strategic plan, and as we increase awareness during Minority Mental Health month, let’s create access in new ways and new places that reaches every Nebraskan.”


Rodriguez noted that the Office of Health Disparities and Health Equity in the Division of Public Health at DHHS is currently working on a series of webinars addressing implicit bias in healthcare, which are expected to begin rolling out in early fall.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health (OMH) is hosting a virtual symposium on Thursday, September 17, to highlight efforts to address COVID-19 among racial and ethnic minority populations. For more information, please visit


Need to talk? It’s okay to want to feel better. Reach out to your health provider, to faith based communities, your community center, or a mental provider near you. There are resources available to help you. They include:

  • The Nebraska Family Helpline, 1-888-866-8660, can help callers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Interpreters are available.
  • The Rural Response Hotline, 1-800-464-0258, has helped thousands of hard working men and women since the 1980s. In addition to mental health counseling, the Rural Response Hotline can provide information regarding legal assistance, financial clinics, mediation and emergency assistance. Interpreters are available.
  • The Network of Care can help connect you to mental health services:
  • If you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed with emotions, anxiety, or feel like you want to harm yourself or someone else, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255 (English) and 1-888-628-9454.



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