Society is slowly acknowledging that mental illness is a real issue—one in five people deals with a disorder in any given year. That helps lessen the stigma, but 60 percent of people with mental health problems don’t get treatment. There are plenty of potential reasons: Maybe there aren’t many therapists in your area. Maybe the ones that are available don’t take your insurance. Maybe you don’t have insurance, so you’ll be paying out of pocket.
Or maybe you can’t book an appointment because you aren’t white and wealthy. That’s the troubling discovery from a recent study in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior. Researchers found working-class black men needed to call 80 therapists to get an appointment, while middle-class white women would only have to call five. Scientists had actors leave voice mails for psychologists and psychiatrists where they said they were depressed and anxious. The messages generally included the same script but had different accents and vocabulary to suggest a specific race or income level.
Unfortunately, this bias among therapists isn’t new. In previous research, the ideal patient has been given the acronym YAVIS (young, attractive, verbal, intelligent, and successful). There are no quick fixes for systemic discrimination among therapists, but this article in The Atlantic does a great job of explaining the issues and the possible solutions.