Racial Differences in Mental Health Recovery among Veterans with Serious Mental Illness: A Summary 


Discrimination, marginalization, and violence against certain groups of people in the past have evolved into structural, institutional, and individual racism today, which fosters a distinctively untrustworthy and less affluent community experience marked by several disparities, such as poor access to and provision of health care. According to a source, mental health conditions among Black and African American communities are estimated to be the same or less frequent compared to White Americans. But, trauma and violence are still more frequent features of the experiences of Black and African Americans than their White counterparts, which affects the emotional and mental well-being of both youth and adults. 

In a research published by the National Library of Medicine, a sample of 226 Veterans (50 percent black, 50 percent white) was assessed to understand the impacts of race, psychosis, and working alliance on mental health recovery among Veterans with serious mental illness. The researchers found that people of the black race endure a larger burden from disabilities and poorer results from mental illness treatment compared to white people. The findings from the study contribute to a better understanding of culturally sensitive mental health care. This article will summarize the noteworthy findings from the study that can help to identify ways to support mental health recovery among vulnerable populations.


Mental health recovery orientation pertains to supporting people to recognize and become responsible for their recovery, as well as their attitude toward living a fulfilled, contributing, and hopeful life despite the limitations caused by mental conditions. Orientation in mental health recovery is influenced by internal factors, including the feeling of connectedness, hope, positivity, and empowerment, and external factors such as social support and significant activities. A greater treatment alliance results in a better recovery orientation in terms of mental health care services. Since the principle of recovery orientation involves acknowledging every individual’s differences, supporting making decisions, and treating others with dignity and respect, it is only important to assess how racial differences affect mental health recovery.

Concerning this, after all the changes and progress made over the years, racism continues to unfold and affect the mental health of people of color. Although negative attitude and preconceptions have lessened, it still exists in the modern day, with instances of negative treatment happening anytime and anywhere. Such treatments could hinder or make the recovery of those with severe mental illness twice as hard as they would have to battle against the difficulties of the mental illness itself, the stigma that surrounds it, and the prejudice that others could have towards the person’s race.

Racial Differences in Mental Health Recovery for People with Serious Mental Illness

After a thorough analysis of responses from 226 Veterans diagnosed with serious mental conditions, the study on the association of racial differences in mental health recovery for people with serious mental illness found the following significant findings:

  • Black participants were more prone to have a schizophrenia spectrum or psychotic disorder diagnosis, more severe psychosis, a more negative opinion of the provider’s sternness and impatience, and a more positive outlook on mental health recovery.
  • Black participants with higher levels of psychosis who felt more positive collaboration with mental health practitioners, including stronger perceived connection, sharing of goals, and mutual trust, indicated a greater orientation toward mental health recovery.
  • The positive collaboration did not reduce the association between higher levels of psychotic symptoms and a worse outlook for mental health recovery among white individuals.
  • Black patients express a stronger preference for collaborative decision-making with healthcare professionals than white patients. 
  • Positive collaboration enhances the patient’s active engagement and expert role, which may greatly enhance their sense of vitality. 

The study further states that the importance of positive collaboration between the patient and healthcare provider in mental health recovery lies in the influence of social difficulties and the chance that race is a substitute for other unknown factors that can impact mental health recovery. Such as how people of color and people with disabilities share a common fate characterized by social oppression, prejudice, marginalization, and stigmatization. The said factors can then create barriers to recovery and foster the development of adaptive skills and resiliency.

Improving Mental Health Recovery Orientation Amidst Racial Differences

The study found several points that can help inform culturally sensitive mental health care. The authors suggest that a strength-based and humane approach to mental health care can help encourage patient endurance and collaborative mental health care that positively impacts the mental health recovery of the patient. During mental health appointments, this may entail asking patients about their preferences and priorities and learning about their cultural values and worldviews. 

Mental health care providers should also be ready to use tools and interventions that encourage better collaboration and mental health recovery perspective to minimize racial differences in mental health care and enable optimistic psychological recovery orientation among black individuals suffering severe mental illness.

Key Takeaways

It is a well-known fact that racial disparities affect more than just how a person sees another individual, but also several aspects of their life, including access to healthcare such as mental health treatments. The stigma of disability and some racial identities makes it even harder for some people to recover from the illness they are going through.

Hence, it is important for health providers, specifically those providing mental health care to take a more culturally sensitive approach and become ready to implement interventions that encourage a positive mental health recovery outlook regardless of the person’s race.

Journal Reference 

Ali, M. K., Hack, S. M., Brown, C. H., Medoff, D., Fang, L., Klingaman, E. A., Park, S. G., Dixon, L. B., & Kreyenbuhl, J. A. (2017). Racial differences in mental health recovery among veterans with serious mental illness. Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, 5(2), 235–242. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-017-0363-z 

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