COVID-19 Impacts on the Mental Health of Minority Communities

The outbreak of the 2019 Coronavirus pandemic, or COVID-19, has caused great damage to several countries and communities around the world impacting areas of environmental, physical, mental, and social health. The unpredictability of the pandemic resulted in an increase in physical distancing, school lockdowns, vaccine testings, financial insecurity, and unemployment. Such events could result in economic breakdowns and raise the risks of mental health issues in the US population (Moreno et al., 2020).   The COVID-19 outbreak exposed numerous problems within the public health system that made it more difficult for services to be provided in response to health emergencies. Health disparities are still continuously growing and are impacted by socio-economic inequalities, especially within the racial minority populations, people with mental disorders, or the frontline workers (doctors, nurses and health professionals, etc.)  (Yang & Qi, 2022). Communities of immigrants, Blacks, Latinos, Native-Americans, or Asians, have especially had their mental health impacted. These effects include but are not limited to, stress, depression, anxiety, mental disorders, and social isolation (Moreno et al, 2020). According to the American Psychiatric Association, some statistics show that 17% of Black Americans reported living with mental illness. Minority communities often show a disproportionately higher burden of mental diagnosis and a lower percentage of receiving mental health services. What is considered by the U.S. Census as low-income is those that are earning less than $40,000 per year. Nearly half of these families reported that since 2021, someone in their household has received a pay cut or lost their of as a result of the pandemic. 

Many families of minority groups were the most affected because of lack of adequate access to healthcare which will predispose them to worse long-term effects of living and working conditions caused by COVID-19 (Bambino et al., 2020). According to the CDC reports, more cases are found in low-income communities along the East Coast i.e. New York, or in the southern states like Georgia (Atlanta), Mississippi, or Alabama. Individuals of minority groups comprise a great percentage of workers in essential industries (food service to healthcare) during the pandemic. For instance, a report by the NYC comptroller showed that 75% of frontline workers in the city are people of color and they make up 40% of transit workers (Bambino et al., 2020). Furthermore, low-income individuals are more likely to use public transportation to commute from work which contributes to the impact of COVID-19 risk in minority communities. The pandemic has pushed parents, especially the women, out of the workforce due to lack of childcare or loss of jobs due to cutbacks in businesses. The living conditions of communities with higher racial and ethnic minority groups are reported to have high-risk factors like greater housing density (families can have more than 5 or 6 people), less housing security, clean water, or scarce reliable sanitation. During the pandemic, food scarcity was an issue and such communities would lack healthy food choices and be more exposed to unhealthy food products like cigarettes, alcohol, and fast food (Bergstresser, 2015). 

These factors are challenges to keeping stable mental and emotional health when dealing with the pandemic. If people are able to access proper healthcare services, they are able to receive screening for mental illness or clinical disorders, proper treatments, tests for substance abuse or alcohol misuse, proper services referral, counseling, or intervention, and adequate response for emergencies. It is critical for public health measures to address these mental, physical, behavioral, and social consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the face of the surmount stress, grief, and loss (McKnight-Eily et al., 2021). Some further statistics of psychosocial stress of US individuals because of the pandemic report that 36% are due to feelings of isolation or loneliness, 25.7% are worries of deaths of loved ones due to illness, 13.5% are of workplace COVID-19 exposure, and 4.1% are due to stigma or discrimination of possibly being blamed of spreading COVID-19. 

According to previous surveys conducted by the CDC, in April and May of 2020, there is a prevalence of increasing reports of depression (28.6%), substance use (18.2%), and suicidal stressors (8.4%) with US adults (McKnight-Eily et al., 2021). Adding to the previous statement, CDC reported that some Hispanic/Latino households reported higher rates of psychological stress of having not enough food or stable and safe housing than other racial and ethnic groups. The average rate of psychosocial stressors of life has increased because of, but not limited to, the following: depression suicidal thoughts, social isolation, stigma, racial discrimination, and the social determinants of health (food security) (McKnight-Eily et al., 2021; Alon et al, 2020). Preliminary data showed that some families exhibited high rates of long-term chronic medical problems like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity which exacerbated the chance of COVID-19 infection causing high rates of comorbidity (Bambino et al., 2020). 

People have the right to a happy life with opportunities with jobs or education, but due to the pandemic, people are struggling to live. COVID-19 has had a traumatic effect with decreasing job opportunities, lacking access to public transportation and health care or insurance, increasing malnutrition and poverty. Within the healthcare society, a growing disparity of cultural understanding and cultural competency can be seen with healthcare providers that result in misdiagnosis and underdiagnosis of mental illness in people across racially or ethnically diverse communities. To understand the impact of the pandemic on minority populations, more studies have to be conducted to improve the emotional well-being and quality of life.


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