By Rhonda Smith
July was National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, intended to bring awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face regarding mental illness in the United States. We wanted to take this opportunity to raise awareness of Tardive Dyskinesia (TD), an involuntary movement disorder associated with taking certain medications that treat bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, or schizoaﬀective disorder, which disproportionately affect racial and ethnic minorities. National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month also focuses on breaking the stigma about mental health among racial and ethnic minority populations. The involuntary movements associated with TD carry a heavy stigma and are particularly harmful to Black communities. Some facts:
TD is characterized by uncontrollable, abnormal, and repetitive movements of the face, torso, and/or other body parts. This can include lip puckering; jaw biting, clenching, or side-to-side movements; tongue darting, sticking out, or pushing inside; twisting and twitching hands and feet; and torso and hip shifting, among other symptoms. Untreated, TD can cause great distress for patients and negatively impact their overall quality of life.
With nearly 6 million Californians living with mental illness, TD is no minor issue. Research suggests the overall prevalence of TD following prolonged treatment with first- generation antipsychotics is up to 30%, and it is estimated that 600,000 people in the U.S. are affected by TD, but many go undiagnosed.
We encourage policy makers, medical professionals, health care advocates, and patients to learn more about TD and its impact on our community. This is especially important as we are in the endemic phase of the COVID crisis, during which patients may not have had regular, in-person contact with health care practitioners so that conditions like TD can be diagnosed and treated.