June 28, 2023
July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to recognize and acknowledge the various ways mental health disparities occur in minority groups, ultimately impacting the level of care available to them.
Among adults with any mental illness in the year 2015, 48% of white people received mental health services compared to 31% of BIPOC individuals. Individuals from marginalized communities may experience reduced access, language barriers, discrimination in treatment settings, and/or higher levels of stigma, affecting their ability to get mental health treatment at all (American Psychiatric Association).
According to 2021 census data, just a third of Minnesota’s need for mental health professionals is met. This workforce shortage helps drive a self-perpetuating behavioral health crisis cycle: when Minnesotans struggle to access mental health care—whether due to cost barriers, provider shortages, or lack of providers who share their cultural identity—they typically delay or forgo care until symptoms become unmanageable. It’s no secret that the field of mental health is understaffed, but it’s particularly sparse when it comes to providers from racially and/or ethnically diverse populations.
Why does this matter? A lack of cultural understanding by healthcare providers may contribute to the misdiagnosis of mental illness in patients from racially or ethnically diverse populations. When the provider doesn’t come from the same background as their patient, they may be unable to fully understand, contextualize, and treat the nuances behind the patient’s symptoms. Because of this, disparities abound.
The Pathways program at People Incorporated intends to change this.
Since its inception, Pathways has strived to create new opportunities for professional growth in the behavioral health field, training and graduating over 60 individuals. Through the program, recent graduates and current students are able to earn paid field experience in behavioral health, counseling, social work, and other related fields, preparing them for their eventual full-time careers.
Pathways prioritizes hiring aspiring mental health professionals who come from underrepresented identities, increasing equity and addressing current workforce shortages.
Trainees in the newest Pathways cohorts (numbers 12 and 13 of the program’s history) have just begun their apprenticeship as of early June 2023. The Mental Health Support Specialist trainees will undergo a 13-week summer program focused on People Incorporated’s bed-based residential programs, participating in hands-on fieldwork and training. The Mental Health Practitioner Trainees will spend 9 months in the program, focusing on bed-based residential and treatment programs.
To date, nearly 50% of trainee graduates are now People Incorporated staff, illustrating a seamless transition to the workforce and proving a clear affinity between trainees and the larger organization.
You can support the training and education of young professionals to come by making a gift to the Pathways program through the Give page on our website. By partnering with us, you are building a behavioral health workforce that is culturally specific, robust, and accessible to all.