July is BIPOC Mental Health Month, a designated time to raise awareness about how culture, race, and background impact mental health.
An IVMF and Military Times COVID-19 poll revealed that during the pandemic, BIPOC veterans report a higher percentage of resource needs – including mental health resources.
With an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse military population (recent reports show as much as 31% of the United States Military is non-white, with about 17.1 percent identifying as Black or African American), it’s more important than ever that we understand how to effectively reach and serve these BIPOC veterans.
This begins with recognizing that while anyone can experience a mental health condition, background and identity can make access to care much more difficult.
Unfortunately, it’s well documented that non-white and in particular, African-American and Black veterans, experience discrimination and disparities in many aspects of their military and veteran experience. For example, numerous studies have identified disparities in mental health diagnoses, access, and outcomes for BIPOC veterans and service members, including:
- Non-white veterans are more likely to experience military sexual trauma when compared to their white counterparts
- Black veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are less likely to be screened for PTSD
- BIPOC veterans are more likely to develop PTSD, despite era of service.
- Racist environments may increase the likelihood that African American veterans will experience PTSD symptoms
- African American women may be less likely to respond to trauma-focused interventions standard in PTSD care
- Black veterans have been shown to receive substantially lower service connection ratings (and therefore disability support) for PTSD when compared to White veterans
These findings are concerning and critical to address. At Cohen Veterans Network, our vision is to “ensure that every veteran and family member is able to obtain access to high-quality, effective care that enables them to lead fulfilling and productive lives. In order to provide effective care for BIPOC veteran populations we must continue to adapt our treatment to acknowledge the impact racial, cultural and ethnic differences have on the effectiveness of certain interventions. We are committed to breaking down all barriers to care – this includes acting proactively to address these disparities.
By Danielle Besuden, MSSW, LICSW
Manager, Clinical Programs, Cohen Veterans Network