When we were developing first the 2022 Community Health Status Survey and later our next strategic plan, we wanted to better understand the issues around mental health in our community. We wanted to hear from the experts – people who have experienced mental health challenges and have navigated the mental health system.
We partnered with Cohear, a Cincinnati-based community engagement and strategy company, to engage these everyday experts.
"Cohear has a proven model for engagement by reaching out to our extensive network of Bridgebuilders," said Brice Mickey, Cohear's Director of Client Success for Cincinnati. "These 'everyday experts' volunteer their time because they are invested in their communities and they trust Cohear to uplift their stories to decision makers with the power to make a difference."
Cohear conducted several focus groups with youth, members of the Black, Latino and LGBTQ+ communities, people with low-income and people who live in rural areas. These were groups that the CHSS found were more likely to report frequent mental distress, defined as reporting mental health that was not good 14 out of the last 30 days.
Though the participants were diverse, some similar themes emerged.
Participants frequently stressed the need for more diverse providers who are Black, Latino or LGBTQ+ in the mental health field.
"Our focus group participants overwhelmingly reported that they wanted care from providers who shared their lived experiences or at the least participated in trainings to help them better empathize with patients," Mickey said. .
Participants suggested as potential solutions providing financial support for marginalized people to pursue careers in mental health and increasing cultural competency in school counseling.
In addition, participants talked about the need to address the root causes of poor mental health, such as inadequate housing and childcare, lack of access to healthy food and well-paying jobs, and unreliable transportation.
Financial barriers to accessing mental health services were also cited, as was the continued widespread stigma surrounding mental health. Some suggested that faith leaders and peer support groups could help combat stigma and build more supportive communities.
Mental health is an integral part of overall health. The findings from these everyday experts will help us in the coming months as we work to make mental health care more equitable for all.
Read the complete report.
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