De-Stigmatizing Mental Health in Communities of Color

In recognition of Mental Health Month this May and Children’s Mental Health Awareness week, IWS therapist Cesiah Banuelos discusses why some families feel shame and embarrassment about seeking mental health counseling and what can be done to reverse the poor opinions surrounding therapy in communities of color.

The stigma of mental illness in communities of color is a hindrance for many families. 

Families who have scheduled appointments with IWS therapists and mental health professionals have made the first critical step toward receiving support.

Misconceptions about Mental Health Care

The cultural attitude that a person suffering from mental illness lacks self-control often prevents individuals of color from seeking the help they may need.

The stigma of discussing private matters outside of the family unit is also a hindrance to a family’s willingness to see a mental health professional. At the Angel Harvey Family Health Center, our providers are sensitive to the cultural needs of families and value the importance of involving the family in treatment when possible. Likewise, language and cultural sensitivity are common deterrents for individuals who are already apprehensive about seeking the care they need for themselves or family members.

According to IWS Child Therapist Cesiah Banuelos, “more education is needed to inform families about mental illness and the physiological processes that take place when an individual is suffering, as well as how medication helps.

Barriers to Treatment

Access to Care.

The ability to access treatment is a crucial matter in an individual’s willingness to seek treatment. In many communities of color, therapy and counseling centers are not local, or, the cost in both time and money to reach a counseling center is too high.

Uninsured or Underinsured.

In a 2008-2012 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, adults in communities of color who had an unmet need for mental health services, the cost or lack of insurance was the number one reason why individuals did not seek mental health care services. (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)

Language and Cultural Sensitivity

Gaining access to who speak the same language or who are sensitive and aware of the patient’s cultural needs can be the difference between a family accepting care and refusing care. The American Psychology Association has published the following recommendation: “Eliminate disparities in mental health status and mental health care through the use of psychological and behavioral research and services that are culturally and linguistically competent.”

Services at the Angel Harvey Family Health Center

We provide bilingual English-Spanish services within the community, making access to treatment a reality in a culturally sensitive manner. Cesiah Banuelos, LCPC uses the concrete example of how an illness is treated to assist reluctant families through the treatment process.

At IWS, offering new solutions and encouraging an openness to change is how our providers help families meet their mental health needs.

Works Cited

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “MHServicesAmongAdults.pdf.” 2008-2012. 8 May 2017 <>.



Dr. Tara Ioffe

Family Practice

Dr. Tara Ioffe is a dedicated and compassionate Board-Certified Family Medicine physician with a strong commitment to providing excellent care to her patients. She obtained her medical degree from Avalon University in Curacao and went on to complete her Family Medicine Residency at the University of Oklahoma. She has worked at the University of Chicago and most recently NorthShore University. She has since returned to Chicago and is thrilled to join the IWS Family Health team in 2023, where she will continue to provide excellent care to her patients.

Throughout her career, Dr. Ioffe has gained experience in diverse medical fields, such as immediate and urgent care medicine while working at NorthShore Immediate Care. She did clinical research at the University of Chicago. Dr. Ioffe strives to foster a secure and inclusive environment for all her patients. She believes in an integrated approach to medicine, dedicating her time to understand each patient’s unique needs.

During her leisure time, Dr. Ioffe indulges in reading a variety of books for pleasure, plays boardgames, and loves to explore Chicago with her spouse and young child.