July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This effort, spearheaded by Mental Health America, seeks to raise awareness around the mental health experiences of BIPOC communities. This includes the barriers that prevent them from receiving mental healthcare and the unique challenges that affect their mental wellness.
Drawing attention to mental health issues and inequities in disadvantaged communities is important. It helps professionals and the public recognize existing and potential problems while promoting the pursuit of solutions.
Bebe Moore Campbell was an author, journalist, and co-founder of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She was passionate about improving mental healthcare, access, and education for people living in underserved communities.
In 2005, she partnered with her friend, Linda Wharton-Boyd, to create the concept of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. They wanted to end the stigma around mental illness and connect more people with mental healthcare.
The idea quickly gained momentum. The Department of Mental Health got involved and held a press conference encouraging the public to schedule mental health check-ups. Campbell and Wharton-Boyd created a task force to help them pursue their goals.
Unfortunately, Campbell was diagnosed with cancer and passed away soon after, but people were determined to carry on her legacy. The legislation naming National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was signed in 2006.
Now, nationwide organizations join forces each July to raise awareness around minority mental health and improve access to care for disadvantaged communities.
Acknowledging and receiving care for mental illness is difficult for many people. It is especially challenging for anyone who belongs to a minority group, including ethnic and racial minorities. They are more likely to experience the risk factors contributing to mental illness.
These risk factors include:
People in BIPOC communities are more likely to experience trauma due to their identity. Racism plays a huge role in influencing mental health and how or if someone receives proper care.
In 2015, 48% of white people received mental health care, as opposed to 31% of Black and Hispanic people. Without access to the same quality of care as white people, people of color experience mental health issues more persistently. They are also more likely to report substance abuse and symptoms of PTSD.
National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month seeks to bring attention to these areas. More people need to understand the obstacles that minority populations face when experiencing and accessing care for mental health issues. Raising awareness also helps to dissolve the stigma around mental illness, which lingers in many communities.
Once the problems are understood, mental health professionals, government officials, and other advocates can work towards solutions that will ease stigma and improve access.
Many different organizations observe National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month every July. They have their own campaigns and events designed to raise awareness in a way that connects with their purpose.
The Office of Minority Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spends the month promoting tools and resources that address stigma, focusing on mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone can view and download the resources they create on their website.
NAMI uses the month as an opportunity to connect more people with their services. In 2022, they planned the launch of a new program called 988 for July. 988 is a nationwide mental health and suicide crisis system designed to give more people access to care. NAMI’s long-term goal is to decrease the ER visits and jail time often substituted for mental healthcare in disenfranchised communities.
Other organizations may host webinars, run social media campaigns, or publish blogs that touch on relevant topics during the month of July.
If you want to participate in National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, there are many different ways to get involved. You can enter the conversation on social media by joining the official Facebook group or by using the hashtag #MinorityMentalHealth.
Expanding your knowledge about mental health issues can be another great way to participate. Attending a webinar, listening to a talk, or reading a post by a member of a BIPOC speaking on mental health will raise your own awareness. If you find a resource you like, you can always share it with your friends or on social media.
Getting involved doesn’t have to be complicated. Other ways to participate during July include:
Participating in National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month can look different for everyone. It can be as easy as sharing something on social media or as involved as joining an organization as a volunteer. Whatever your interests or skill set, there’s a way for you to join in on the effort during July.
Talking about mental health issues is crucial for multiple reasons. It:
Everyone deserves to have access to life-saving care. When we can take care of ourselves and get vital treatment for mental illness, we improve our own lives and the lives of the people around us. It benefits society as a whole to eliminate inequality and provide more care for more people.
You can be part of that movement. It always starts with caring for yourself. If you’re dealing with mental illness or substance abuse, reach out for help at our facility at Jackson House. The support you need is here with our team of specialists and caring volunteers.