Minority communities face greater disparities for mental health care, local psychiatrist says

Psychiatrist Dr. Asra Hamzavi says there are benefits to taking care of one’s mental health.

Asra Hamzavi

Photo Credit: Asra Hamzavi

Despite focused efforts, access to mental health services is limited for minority communities across Metro Detroit.

Asra Hamzavi is an adult psychiatrist who founded her own practice called Hamzavi Psychiatry and Wellness Center. During an interview for Mental Health Awareness Month, Hamzavi says the pandemic provided an opportunity for people to take mental health seriously while using virtual options.

“When you sit down and you talk to somebody and work through… some of the things that might be affecting you, present-day or even in the past, you start to understand what to do with your thoughts and your feelings. And then it informs kind of your behaviors.”

Hamzavi says the need for mental health has been present before the pandemic, but it was exacerbated during the pandemic. She says the pandemic presented opportunities for more people to explore therapy.

“For those of us that trained in the field, we are people-oriented and we like to be in front of the person and we actually do a lot of observation when we’re talking to somebody… At the same time, what we gained was a glimpse into people’s homes and lives that we might not otherwise have.”

She says for some people, virtual options make mental health services more accessible, but create challenges for others. She says domestic violence, child abuse and martial and family conflict increased during the pandemic.

Hamzavi treats adults 18 and older. During the pandemic she treated many school teachers, administrators and parents. She says the changing education system during the pandemic took an enormous toll on people caring for children.

“There was the initial shock and people were kind of in survival mode… as it continued, and people started to realize this is not going away overnight. I think that’s when some of the mental health toll started to take hold.”

She says mental health professionals were going through their own challenges.

“So the ability to get that help was a challenge I think for many people,” she says.

Hamzavi says minority communities faced greater disparities throughout the pandemic due to barriers like lack of health care, expenses, childcare and transportation.

“All these things are being compromised when you strain the system this much,” she says.

She says people can connect with their social networks such as schools or workplaces to receive assistance.

“A lot of HR departments are recognizing the need to fill this gap and also in the school communities,” she says.

According to mentalhealthamerica.org, Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services, due in part to stigma. Asian Americans make up 6.1 percent of the U.S. population. Hamzavi says while stigma is not limited to the Asian American communities, it’s amplified. She says those who are afraid to reach out to mental health professionals should exhaust all options — and then consider therapy if they chose to.

“If you feel like you have gone and tried everything you possibly know, every coping strategy that you have, and you’ve gone on every avenue that you typically would use and you’re still struggling, you need to be asking yourself, ‘Is this working for me? And do I have any other great ideas?’”

Hamzavi says people are resilient.

“Recognizing that you’re not alone and reaching out to people to be honest about how you’re struggling can go a long way,” she says.


Looking for more information on how to take care of your mental health? Here are some resources:

  1. Speaking to kids about violence https://www.bloomfield.org/about-us/safety-security/resources
  2. Child Mind Institute
  3. Find a therapist on Psychology Today
  4. American Psychological Association, a network of 133,000 researchers, clinicians, health care professionals

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  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.