Communities of color face many challenges that have negative effects on their overall well-being.
Racial trauma, lack of mental health care resources, and the effects of the pandemic create mental illnesses, which can lead to high rates of drug addiction and suicides.
This is why every July, people of color (POC) and those in minority communities celebrate Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
The month is dedicated to raising public awareness of the mental health conditions of POC. It also promotes health equity by providing health resources to minority populations.
Getting involved is easy. Hop on social media and share your own or others’ stories of courage, culture, and community. You can also educate yourself on mental health issues POC experience.
History Of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
The U.S. House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell who passed in 2006.
Campbell was an author, advocate, and spokesperson for mental health education amongst POC. She worked to end the cultural stigma against mental health treatment, as well as encourage wellness in African American communities.
In 2003, Campbell was awarded NAMI’s Outstanding Media Award for literature. Inspired by Campbell’s win, Linda Wharton-Boyd worked to get a month dedicated to Campbell’s name.
Campbell and Boyd went on a vast public speaking tour to encourage POC to seek mental health checkups, similar to yearly physical exams.
Their campaign fell on hard times when Campbell became ill and eventually passed away, leaving behind a life full of advocacy.
Boyd still sought to make the month a reality. With some help, she was able to receive support from House Representatives to create an official minority mental health awareness month.
The two main goals of the month are:
- Making access to mental health services and treatment easier, as well as raising awareness of mental illnesses.
- Specifically, name a month as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to promote public knowledge about mental illnesses among minorities.
The Importance Of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
There have been numerous mental health disparities throughout the years amongst POC. These disparities were intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, the Office of Minority Mental Health (OMH) conducted research on the behavioral health of BIPOC.
Some of their findings were:
- Suicide was the leading cause of death for Asian Americans between the ages of 12 to 24.
- Violent deaths, homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries make for 75% of all deaths for American Indians/Alaska Natives in their second decade of life.
- Hispanics living below the poverty level are twice as likely to experience serious psychological distress compared to people living over twice the poverty level.
- The suicide rate for Black and/or African American men was four times greater than for their female counterparts.
Trauma experienced from racial discrimination, police brutality, and biased jail sentences creates mistrust between behavioral health workers and community members.
When mistrust and stigmas persist through generations it can lead to depression, anxiety, and substance issues, including alcohol abuse or cocaine addiction.
What National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month strives to do is encourage POC to explore mental health options.
Childhood mental health treatment may reduce the risk of addiction later on in life. It can also influence others to be emotionally open, leading to less of a stigma around mental health treatment.
How To Get Involved In National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Getting involved in National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month may encourage others to take action regarding their mental health.
Social media is one of the easiest ways to make an impact. Sharing a personal story of courage inspires others to open up about their own experiences.
If you don’t want to share your own story but come across someone else’s, feel free to repost or comment. Words of affirmation and thanks are always encouraging.
Other ways to get involved are:
- researching and sharing with others about the unique challenges POC face with mental health treatment
- letting someone know that it’s currently National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, such as family members, friends, or co-workers
- creating and sharing art that is inspired by POC or mental health
- diving into Bebe Moore Campbell’s work and life
- following the National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages
- signing up for the Office of Minority Health’s (OMH) newsletters for updates
- sharing the OMH Knowledge Center online catalog, a great resource for publications that spread mental health awareness in communities of color
- downloading and sharing graphics from the National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month website
- contacting local news outlets and letting them know about the month’s activities
- volunteering, hosting, or sponsoring an event that promotes mental health for POC
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Congress — Supporting The Goals And Ideals Of Bebe Moore Campbell Black, Indigenous, And People Color Of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Awareness Month in July 2021
National Institute Of Mental Health — Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders
U.S. Department Of Health And Human Services — Health Disparities