(August 19, 2014) National Minority Mental Health Month is over, but the dual discrimination against minorities with severe mental illness goes on.
In the July issue of Psychiatric Services, a team of researchers looked at outpatient follow-up after hospitalization for mental health crisis and found that “blacks were less likely than whites to receive any treatment or begin adequate follow-up within 30 days of discharge” (“Quality of follow-up after hospitalization for mental illness among patients from racial-ethnic minority groups”).
“Hospitalization serves a crucial function in mental health systems by providing treatment for individuals with acute psychiatric needs,” the authors wrote. Timely follow-up after hospitalization can reduce the duration of disability and, for certain conditions, the likelihood of rehospitalization.”
Rates of follow-up (defined as being seen in a follow-up appointment within 30 days of hospital discharge) were abysmal for the whole population: Less than 26% of hospital dischargees – an extremely fragile population considering how difficult it is to get into a hospital in the first place – received follow-up treatment, the study found.
After adjustment for need and socioeconomic status, the analyses found that blacks were “significantly less likely than whites” to receive follow-up with 30 days and “also less likely to receive adequate care beginning within 30 days of discharge.”
Bias against minority patients by their providers was found to heighten barriers to recovery.
“When patients from racial-ethnic minority groups perceive provider discrimination or bias during inpatient treatment, the negative impacts on mental health and follow-up can be profound and potentially debilitating,” the researchers said.
Their results “reassert the need for interventions to improve continuity of care for all acuity levels of mental health services, especially for black patients,” they concluded.
Read an abstract of “Quality of follow-up after hospitalization for mental illness among patients from racial-ethnic minority groups
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