KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Many people are reluctant to get help for depression or other mental illnesses. New Research finds blacks and Latinos are less likely than white to seek care and to receive adequate care.
Vanessa Perez's smile hid the struggle inside.
"In my mind, I had that voice saying negative things to me all the time," says Vanessa.
That led her to binge and purge. It went on for eight years before she sought treatment for bulimia. She says her Latino culture's emphasis on self-motivation and self-reliance was a factor in waiting to get help.
"I can't do this on my own. I'm not a strong person. And that's obviously by no means the reality," says Vanessa.
A new study in Health Services Research finds only 27 percent of Latinos and 24 percent of Blacks who need mental health care seek treatment compared to 40 percent of whites.
Researchers found that Blacks and Latinos used outpatient services and medicines for a shorter time. Blacks were more likely to end up in psychiatric emergency rooms and in-patient facilities likely because they hadn't received treatment earlier.
"I think most minority communities still look at mental health care and the health care community in general as a largely white environment, and so there is a little mistrust," says Ken Dawn of the National Alliance on Mental Illness,or NAMI, in Kansas City.
He says the stigma of mental illness and a lack of insurance coverage are other factors.
"If you just contact us and let us know what's going on, we will walk you through the process," says Ken.
Vanessa now works for NAMI, too. She says getting treatment six years ago for her eating disorder was the best thing she ever did.
"Be open. Be open to letting people help you," says Vanessa.