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Thousands of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) physicians and patients are looking forward to this year’s National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Held in July, the month-long event advocates for the well-being of communities of color. Its purpose and history influenced several major healthcare organizations to participate in its cause.
How It Began
Since its creation in 2008, the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month has worked to highlight the unique struggles that surface within Black and Indigenous communities. However, the program’s founder had more of a hand in this than many before her. According to Mental Health America, Campbell was an:
Author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities.
Her innovative method of including people of color in discussions about mental illnesses inspired this movement; without Bebe, millions of Americans wouldn’t be receiving proper care for their issues.
Speaking Out As Minorities
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) supervises the yearly event. During the four weeks, the OMH works to promote tools and services to combat the stigma associated with mental illnesses and people of color.
The goal is to raise awareness and support for people among racial and ethnic minority demographics who are struggling with serious mental illnesses and diseases. Discussions on depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and PTSD are encouraged to open up communication on these issues.
Normalizing the treatment of these behaviors is a crucial step for these underrepresented communities to get the recognition they deserve. Mental Health America’s website claims that 37% of individuals identifying as LGBTQ have mental illnesses.
However, the number of adults who identify as LGBTQ only just reached a record high of 7.1% of Americans in February. Studies also show that multiracial people are more likely to report mental illnesses than any other race or ethnic group in the past year. These facts, and more, propel Campbell and other minority-based healthcare providers’ work.
Its Impact on Current Events
Awareness has also become more apparent for African-Americans more recently. Including events like George Floyd’s shooting and Black Lives Matter, Black people have undergone numerous life changes since 2008. In a statement on racist incidents across the country, CEO Daniel G. Hilson argued for more recognition regarding people of color, saying that racism in America has become a public health crisis. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) CEO wrote:
Our nation’s African American community is going through an extremely painful experience, pain that has been inflicted upon this community repeatedly throughout history and is magnified by mass media and repeated deaths. We stand with all the families, friends and communities who have lost loved ones senselessly due to racism. And, with more than 100,000 lives lost to the coronavirus pandemic – disproportionately from minority communities – these recent deaths add gasoline to the fire of injustice. While there is much we need to do to address racism in our country, we must not forget the importance of mental health as we do so.
A Way Forward
From community-based organizations to healthcare providers, OHM actively pursues leaders across the country to take part in the cause. They have social media accounts that allow people to share awareness information, images, and graphics with the MMHAM hashtag. NAMI is also participating in National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by publishing related stories on its blog. They had this to say about the impact of their work:
Through candid and courageous stories of lived experience, these mental health champions share their resilience and recovery, emphasizing the importance of culture and identity in the mental health movement.
Written by Ogechi Onyewuchi
Edited by Sheena Robertson
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health: National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, by OHM organization
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, by NAMI organization
National Alliance on Mental Illness News Blog: NAMI’s Statement On Recent Racist Incidents And Mental Health Resources For African Americans, by NAMI organization
Mental Health America: July Is Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, by MHA organization
Mental Health America: Mental Health Resources For Black, Indigenous, And People Of Color, by MHA organization
USA Today: ‘You are seen’: A record 7.1% of US adults now identify as LGBTQ, new poll shows, by Susan Miller
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Fibonacci Blue‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
First Inset Image Courtesy of Jowanna Daley‘s Pixabay Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image by Jill.M123 Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License
Third Inset Image by Aderawilson Courtesy of Wikimedia – Creative Commons License