As a psychologist at the Washington DC VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center, Chanda Corbett, PhD, has cared for WWII, Korean and Vietnam era Veterans for nine years. She says they are constantly teaching her new things.
“Did you know that the Marine Corps just nominated their first ever black four star general? It took 246 years to do it, but it finally happened in 2022. I learned about it and will share it with the Veterans at the CLC because they often share these types of events with me,” said Corbett.
Between politics, recent events and old war stories, the most important thing that the Veterans have taught Corbett is this: generations of racial inequality, both in and out of service, have created a negative impact on minority mental health, and a deep lack of trust in the system designed to care for them. As a response, Corbett strives to provide positive corrective experiences and culturally responsive care.
July is designated as National Minority Mental Health Month to raise awareness of mental illness and to improve access to mental health services for racial and ethnic minority populations. In today’s diverse military, 31% of service members are non-white. While anyone can experience mental health struggles, it is well documented that non-white service members are more likely to develop PTSD due to experiencing discrimination in some aspects of their careers.
“Many of these minority groups have been living in a society where they are marginalized. They have either experienced or witnessed racial injustice too often to believe that they will be treated with respect, and they may not feel safe seeking care,” said Corbett. “We are working to change that.”
The Mental Health Service at the Washington DC VA Medical Center offers Race Based Stress and Trauma Groups in the following clinics:
- Primary Care Mental Health Integration
- Sexual Assault Response Program
- The Center for Women’s Health
- Southern Prince George’s County Community-Based Outpatient Clinic
- Trauma Services
“Our counselors, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and nurses are being trained to deliver culturally responsive care. We help Veterans begin to trust in the VA and open up about their experiences,” said Corbett. “Many feel safe with us, and we hope other clinics develop trusting relationships where they receive care.”
The Mental Health Service Diversity Committee strives to share their knowledge of culturally responsive care with all staff members by providing:
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion educational resources and trainings
- Discussions about race, culture and identity’s impact on assessments, clinical care and team processes in team and consultation meetings
- Monthly Lean in Discussions about diversity and inclusion to increase cultural competency and cultural humility
“Veterans of color need allies. They need to believe that we recognize their service and sacrifice and that we are here to support them,” said Corbett. “They deserve our best when it comes to health care, and they also deserve our respect. That’s how we build a better future together.”
To learn more about VA’s Minority Health Care Services, click here: Minority Mental Health Month - Mental Health (va.gov)