Spikes in violence and an uptick in school and mass shootings continue to propel discussion of the unmet demands of the American mental health system. A 2016 CDC report External link revealed suicide rates in the United States jumped a startling 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, with a marked increase in deaths from those as young as 10 to as old as 74. A question repeatedly asked by both health experts and policy pundits is: If resources are not sufficient for the general population, how do underserved groups address their psychiatric needs?
Perspective of scale is key to understanding the extent of the issue. One in six Americans suffer from a diagnosable, treatable mental health condition External link . However, minority groups — African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans — are more likely to experience the risk factors External link that can cause such disorders. In one study External link , African Americans were found to have significantly higher rates of schizophrenia compared to whites. In contrast to their white counterparts, African Americans were also more likely to report their depression as being extremely severe and disabling. Meanwhile, Native Americans and Alaska Natives have a higher tendency to experience feelings of nervousness and restlessness External link when compared to non-Hispanic white people.