By Chris Adams

The rates of mental illness among different racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. are different – and the likelihood that people in those groups will access care is even wider.

Dr. Alfiee Breland-Noble, a professor at Georgetown University Medical Center, led National Press Foundation fellows through the literature on disparities in mental health care and coverage. And one of the most surprising findings, she said, is that money – or lack of it – is not the main driver

“Where’s the difference?” she asked. “The difference is in who gets care.”

Cultural attitudes in communities can make that difference.

“The one thing that everyone thinks is that the primary barrier to care is money,” she said. “There’s truth to that. But that’s not the whole story.”

When Breland-Noble is speaking to groups and asks how many people have personal experience with a mental illness, “Most of the time – especially when I’m in African-American and Latino communities -- nobody’s raising their hand,” she said.

She pointed journalists to her recent Handbook of Mental Health in African American Youth, which reviews the literature on prevalence, access and treatment strategies.

She also pointed people to the AAKOMA Project, which she directs and which develops culturally-relevant, patient-centered clinical care strategies. It stands for the African American Knowledge Optimized for Mindfully-Healthy Adolescents.