As a psychologist at the Community Life Center at the Washington DC VA Medical Center, Chanda Corbett, PhD, cared for veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam for nine years. She says they are constantly teaching her new things.
“Did you know the Marine Corps just named its first-ever black four-star general? It took 246 years to do it, but it finally happened in 2022. I learned it and I will share it with CLC veterans because they often share these types of events with me,” Corbett said. .
Between politics, recent events and old war stories, the most important thing the veterans taught Corbett is this: Generations of racial inequality, both on and off duty, have created a negative impact on the mental health of minorities and a profound lack of trust in the system designed to care for them. In response, Corbett strives to provide positive corrective experiences and culturally appropriate care.
July is designated as National Minority Mental Health Month to raise awareness about mental illness and improve access to mental health services for racial and ethnic minority populations. In today’s diverse military, 31% of service members are non-white. Although anyone can have mental health issues, it’s well documented that non-white service members are more likely to develop PTSD due to discrimination in some aspect of their careers.
“Many of these minority groups live in a society where they are marginalized. They have experienced or witnessed racial injustice too often to believe they will be treated with respect, and they may not feel safe to seek care,” Corbett said. “We are working to change that.”
The Washington DC VA Medical Center Mental Health Service offers race-based stress and trauma groups at the following clinics:
- Integration of primary care in mental health
- Sexual Assault Response Program
- The Center for Women’s Health
- Community Outpatient Clinic of Southern Prince George’s County
- Trauma Services
“Our counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and nurses are trained to provide culturally appropriate care. We’re helping veterans start to trust the AV and talk about their experiences,” Corbett said. “Many feel safe with us, and we hope other clinics will develop trusting relationships where they receive care.”
The Mental Health Services Diversity Committee strives to share its knowledge of culturally appropriate care with all staff members by providing:
- Educational resources and training on diversity, equity and inclusion
- Discussions of the impact of race, culture and identity on assessments, clinical care and team processes during team meetings and consultation
- Monthly Lean in Diversity and Inclusion Discussions to Increase Cultural Competence and Cultural Humility
“Veterans of color need allies. They need to believe that we recognize their service and sacrifice and are here to support them,” Corbett said. “They deserve our best in health care, and they deserve our respect as well. This is how we build a better future together.
To learn more about VA Minority Health Care Services, click here: Minority Mental Health Month – Mental Health (va.gov)