This month is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. July is a reminder to uplift the impact of mental health disparities in communities of color. It is also an opportunity to raise awareness about providing culturally and linguistically appropriate mental health care and promote well-being.
Addressing mental health may be difficult for many, especially for communities of color. There may be stigma associated with seeking care or talking about it on personal, cultural, or societal levels due to biases, prejudice, and discrimination.
Gaining insight into a patient’s emotional and mental health is a priority given that social distancing requirements under the COVID-19 pandemic likely exacerbated the prevalence of loneliness, which was reported by 1 in 5 American adults before the pandemic. According to a Protocol for Responding to and Assessing Patients’ Assets, Risks, and Experiences (PRAPARE®) national analysis, stress was among one of the most common social risks for patients. Stress has negative health consequences when a patient has insufficient coping resources. Long-term exposure to chronic stressors increases a patient’s allostatic load, which is the biological mechanism by which stress produces negative health outcomes.
For providers hoping to assess their patients’ mental health and well-being, providers can ask simple questions that are not explicitly about mental health. In the PRAPARE® assessment tool, there are two questions that are subtle and still effective in identifying the status of a patient’s social and emotional health:
- How often do you see or talk to people that you care about and feel close to? (For example: talking to friends on the phone, visiting friends or family, going to church or club meetings)
- Stress is when someone feels tense, nervous, anxious, or can’t sleep at night because their mind is troubled. How stressed are you?
By asking these PRAPARE® questions, providers can have actionable and structured data on the emotional and mental well-being of their patients and therefore, provide them whole-person care, support, and referrals to appropriate resources. Stress management interventions can prevent stress from becoming toxic to the body and contributing to the development of chronic health conditions (IOM, Phase I Report, 2014). Interventions may include providing healthy stress management alternatives to medication (e.g. exercise, yoga, meditation), and connecting patients to healthy outlets to reduce stress (e.g., community gardens, low-cost yoga studios, parks & trails).
For more information on the PRAPARE® assessment tool, you may visit the website or review the PRAPARE® Implementation and Action Toolkit.
If you have any concerns and/or questions about the PRAPARE assessment tool or would like to request any accommodations, please contact the PRAPARE® team. You can also join us every third Monday at the PRAPARE® Tiger Team workgroup to ask questions live and provide feedback.
For more information on emotional and mental health, check out these resources:
- Behavioral Health: What Matters for Health Centers
- “Mental Health and Wellness in Activism” Webinar
- OMH Minority Population Profiles
- Prediction of Future Health Care Utilization Through Note-extracted Psychosocial Factors
Authors: Albert Ayson, Jr., MPH; Kristine Cecile Alarcon, MPH; Rosy Chang Weir, PhD | Association for Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)
Questions? Email the PRAPARE team