FINDING HOPE: Meeting mental health needs for minorities in Idaho

Posted at 8:11 PM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-18 20:22:17-05

BOISE, Idaho — Imagine living in a place where most people don't look like you. Don't speak your language, or know your culture. For a small percent of Idahoans today, that's their reality every single day. According to the U.S Census Bureau's 2019 report, Caucasians who do not identify as "Hispanic" or "Latino" make up more than 81% of the population. That statistic experts say leads to frequent discrimination.

Cultural stigmas, language barriers, lack of transportation, and racial discrimination are just a few reasons minorities are hesitant to seek mental health help. Angie Hernandez Harris is a licensed clinical professional counselor, and she tells 6 On Your Side that after speaking among her colleagues, many of whom are minorities, she learned that people of color in Idaho deal with racism when seeking medical help. She says, "unless you've lived those things, it's going to be truly hard to relate to those kinds of experiences."

KeAndra Harris, a 24 year old Burley native and Boise resident tells us she's African American and Mexican. Her ethnicity, she says played a role in how she viewed mental health growing up, "with the Mexican culture, at least with my family, mental health doesn't exist." On top of that, Harris says when the time came to seek help for her mental health, she had a hard time finding a professional that looked like her or could identify with her, "it took years for me to find one person, and accept that I needed some mental help."

Here in Idaho, the state has spent time and invested resources into funding and operating community mental health services. The mental health services offer interpreter services and language assistance to those who need it. The funds are there. But the transportation seems to be the missing piece to the puzzle.

With the state of Idaho working to make all mental health resources available to all in need, the next step is making them accessible for everyone, especially those outside of Ada and Canyon counties.

For a list of mental health resources across the state, click here.

For more information on the state of Idaho's plan to expand transportation into rural communities, click here.

Angie Hernandez Harris is a bilingual Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor based in Boise. She has been in the industry for eight years.