NEW YORK (WETM-TV)- The New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH) today recognized National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by reaffirming its commitment to reduce disparities in access, quality, and treatment outcomes for marginalized populations.
OMH Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said “Minority Mental Health Month is especially significant this year, in light of the disproportionate COVID-19 infection rates minority communities are enduring. This has greatly increased the levels of stress, anxiety and other psychological issues for thousands of individuals and families across the state.
The mission of the New York State Office of Mental Health is to promote the mental health of all New Yorkers, and this includes recognition of the unique needs of all populations that historically and currently face discrimination.”
Mental health issues are also compounded by the recent escalation of racist rhetoric and both covert and overt forms of racism. The combined burdens of illness, structural racism, and overt violence highlight as never before the enormous stress and behavioral health risks in minority communities.
OMH acknowledges these burdens and is dedicated to ensuring that all New Yorkers, including marginalized communities, have access to supports and resources to mitigate mental health needs caused by racism, discrimination and increased racial tensions.
Racial Discrimination as a Social Determinant of Mental Health
The experience of discrimination leads to many stress-related emotional, physiologic, and behavioral changes.
The added stress evokes emotional responses such as distress, sadness, and anger and often results in an increase in behaviors that harm health (i.e. use of alcohol, tobacco, and other substances). In turn, these emotional responses are known to result in a decrease in healthy activities (i.e. sleep, physical activity, social interaction).
Each of these common stress reactions increases the risk of individuals experiencing anxiety, mood disorders, and other major psychiatric conditions.
OMH’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion works with partners both inside and outside of government to increase diversity and inclusion in the mental health workforce and to reduce disparities in access, quality and mental health treatment outcomes for marginalized communities.
Additionally, since 2007 the Office of Mental Health has funded two Centers of Excellence in Culturally Competent services at the Nathan Kline Institute and at the New York Psychiatric Institute, Division of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, Columbia University Department of Psychiatry.
Since 1989 OMH has also operated the Statewide Multicultural Advisory Committee, a Statewide advisory body comprised of experts, advocates and community members representing the most prominent special population groups in New York State.
OMH’s efforts to be a part of the solution include implementing additional activities to provide a diverse and inclusive work environment for agency employees. These efforts also include collecting and reporting on data that will continue to inform the work to reduce disparities.
OMH wants all New Yorkers to know that help is available to address psychological stress related to COVID-19 and the recent increase in racial stressors and unrest in our communities. The agency encourages people experiencing distress or increased anxiety to call the NY Project Hope Emotional Support Helpline: 1-844-863-9314.