LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Bridging the mental health gap when it comes to people of color was the main topic at the Psychopharmacology Update hosted by the Nevada Psychiatric Association.

 “Our resistance is our resilience,” said Dr. Mary Roessel.

Rossel is a Navajo psychiatrist focusing on the healthcare treatment of Native Americans. She said the economic impact of COVID-19 put a strain on the indigenous community.

“It really came to light all of these issues around inequities, poor access to care and poverty rates were over two times higher in indigenous people here in the United States,” Roessel said. “It really came to light that all of that was impacting us in our ability to handle the pandemic when it arose.”

Dr. Francis G. Lu is a psychiatrist affiliated with U.C. Davis, researching Asian American disparities. He spoke on how clinicians can gather information on what cultural issues patients of color face.

“Stigma is a major issue, especially in the Asian American, Pacific Islander community. It can certainly impede even recognizing that they have mental disorders and to seek care,” Lu explained. ” If they even get to a provider we have the potential problem that the clinicians may not be culturally and linguistically competent to provide the care. “

Dr. Ann Childress, a Las Vegas psychiatrist, said she sees those trends hold true in the valley.

“I think it’s much more difficult for people who aren’t caucasian to come in,” Childress said. “I see fewer Hispanics and few African Americans. They don’t often come in until it’s a real crisis.”

Childress also said some people don’t seek treatment because they can’t afford it.

“We actually pay people to come and see us and we often look at medications that aren’t out on the market yet or out for a specific population like it may be approved for adults but not for kids. We’re also doing some nonmedication studies and everything I do is free,” Childress said.

Lu said bridging this mental health gap is a multi-prong approach. While there is a workforce shortage, Lu said there are a limited number of residency slots to train psychiatrists.

“States need to work together, the state legislators and the Psychiatric Association to increase the number of spots, that’s just one prong,” Lu said. “Another one is working with the community. This means meaningful outreach, collaboration between the providers and the communities involved.”