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Report: Minorities less likely to seek mental health, substance abuse help

Cultural norms can prevent some from seeking help
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Posted at 3:28 PM, Dec 15, 2020

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — We are living in unprecedented times amid COVID-19. A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds 40% of adults struggle with mental health and substance use during this pandemic.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Rebound South Florida

In response, as we head into the winter months, Retreat Behavioral Health, a provider on the front lines in our area, is holding a seminar entitled Winter Wellness: The Gifts of Recovery.

Over a dozen times a day, Benjamin Champion, a Retreat Behavioral Health outpatient coordinator, receives calls from people who have either relapsed or they’re looking for other recovery programming and support.

Caroline Franklin
Caroline Franklin, a therapist at Retreat Behavioral Health, says there has been an increase in overdoses and relapses this year due to the pandemic.

"Sometimes the calls are an hour-long," Champion said.

At one point, Champion was on the other line himself. In May 2016, he entered Retreat Behavioral Health for alcohol abuse.

"In the Hispanic culture, it's not cool to be the one who can't drink because that's what you do on a Friday night," Champion said.

Champion said cultural norms almost prevented him from seeking help. Today, half his calls are for alcohol abuse, and he's not the only one concerned the isolation and uncertainly surrounding the pandemic has only compounded the problem.

"There's definitely an increase in overdoses and relapses since COVID-19 started,” said Caroline Franklin, primary therapist at Retreat Behavioral Health.

Franklin is also concerned with the people choosing to seek help.

"I think it’s a cultural thing," Franklin said.

The National Alliance on Mental Health reports almost 50% of white adults seek help versus only 25% of Asian adults, 31% of Black adults, 32% of mixed/multicultural adults, and 33% of Latinx adults.

Joi Honer
Joi Honer is a certified addiction counselor who is moderating a seminar called "Winter Wellness: The Gifts of Recovery."

A report from the CDC also found 54% of essential workers and 66% of unpaid caregivers had at least one adverse mental or behavioral health symptom.

Joi Honer, Retreat Behavioral Health senior director of alumni and community engagement, has grown tired of the headlines and the numbers. She’s behind Retreat’s first seminar of its kind to present solution-focused gifts this winter.

"Empowerment is a strong message in wellness," Honer said. ”You might be in a situation that you can’t control, but you can control your attitude. The people that I feel for the most is the person who doesn’t know that help is out there.”

On Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. via Facebook Live, Honer will moderate a real-time discussion about overcoming adversity, mental health, and substance use recovery during the holidays with tips and contributions from experts and mental health professionals.

Panelists include Kate Ramsey, clinical supervisor at Retreat Behavioral Health, Grace Shober with Retreat Behavioral Health, and Leroy Cruz, a person in long-term recovery.

The panel encourages questions. To join the conversation and to learn more, click here.