COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A new report by Ohio researchers is revealing a lack of racial diversity in the Buckeye state’s mental-health workforce.
About 12.5% of Ohioans are Black while less than 5% of psychologists and psychiatrists in Ohio are Black, according to a study from Ohio University, Central State University, the Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition and Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence.
“That lack of diversity, not just in terms of race and ethnicity, but in terms of gender, is a problem that we have to change,” said Jewel Woods, founder and clinical director of Male Behavioral Health.
Woods said there is an increased need for behavioral health services in communities of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, or BIPOC. The need is especially prevalent among Black men, who have experienced some of the highest increases in suicide death rates over the last decade.
“What we find unfortunately, is that minorities, particularly African Americans, and even more particularly African American youth, just don’t feel comfortable even accessing the mental health resources available,” said Woods. “Because they feel as if the clinicians there don’t understand them, they feel like they might be targeted, and that ends up, unfortunately, just increasing the disease burden.”
Now, mental health experts are presenting their findings at Ohio’s Statehouse and calling upon lawmakers to expand training around cultural competency, establish financial assistance toward students of color, and improve access to behavioral health services.
“We need to be looking at pipeline issues, recruitment issues, and also retention issues,” said Joan Englund, executive director of Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition.
“It’s really critical that we have the cooperation and support of this body, to be really impactful in the work that we’re trying to do,” said Tracy Maxwell Heard, executive director of Multiethnic Advocates for Cultural Competence.