In 2008, Congress recognized July as Bebe Moore Campbell Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (also known as BIPOC Mental Health Month). Campbell was a teacher, author, and journalist who worked tirelessly to advocate for the mental health of people in underrepresented communities.
As she put it, “While everyone — all colors — everyone is affected by stigma, no one wants to say 'I'm not in control of my mind.' No one wants to say, 'The person I love is not in control of [their] mind.’ But people of color really don't want to say it because we already feel stigmatized by virtue of skin color or eye shape or accent and we don't want any more reasons for anyone to say, 'You're not good enough.'"
July is all about busting that added stigma and helping those who have been pushed to the margins of society to get access to the mental health care they need and deserve. Want to get involved? Here are a few ways to start.
Whether you identify as part of a minority group/BIPOC or not, July gives you an important reminder. If you care about mental health, you should definitely care about the added stigma and obstacles to treatment that people in minority groups face.
There are two primary issues here.
Firstly, people from minority groups are more likely to experience mental health challenges.
Data published from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey found that Black, American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN), Hispanic, Latino, and people from two or more races are more likely than White people to feel sadness all or most of the time. And by a notable margin, those groups, along with Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander (NHOPI) people, report that they feel like everything is an effort all or most of the time. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also found that people in all of those groups were more likely to have experienced serious psychological distress in the last year.
Secondly, there’s another aspect to BIPOC/minority mental health that deepens the problem. That same SAMHSA data revealed that while 22.2% of white people received mental health services in the last year, those numbers dropped for most people in minority groups:
- Black: 13.5%
- AIAN: 17.5%
- Asian: 8.3%
- Hispanic or Latino: 12.9%
There wasn’t even enough accurate data to report a percentage for NHOPI, too.
In other words, people from minority groups are more likely to need mental health services and less likely to get them. And that’s why Minority Mental Health Awareness Month matters.
Create safer spaces
You can be a part of positive change by starting mental health conversations. Opening up about your own mental health journey can create an opportunity for other people to share — and ask for help when they need it.
To help you foster a safer space for the people around you, Mental Health America has a worksheet. Filling it out with your friends and family can help you identify community spaces where mental health conversations can happen. Or, in some cases, it might help you realize that your community doesn’t have them just yet. And that could be the first step in partnering with others to create those spaces.
Tune in to Indigenous leader and author Elaine Alec’s Cultivating Safer Spaces educational webinar with SHE RECOVERS to learn the four necessary conditions within a “nested system” that promote well-being, inclusion, validation, and freedom.
As you build or foster safer spaces, it might be helpful to review and encourage others to look over this guide from the CDC on preferred terms. Inclusive language goes a long way toward helping people feel welcomed.
Your social media accounts could be tools for good this July. With certain hashtags, you can promote minority mental health awareness and connect with other people trying to bash stigmas.
We’re getting social by following these twenty-two Black, Indigenous, and women of color. We invite you to show them your support by engaging with their content and amplifying their voices. After all, the theme of Mental Health America’s BIPOC Mental Health campaign for 2023 is Culture, Community & Connection.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is encouraging people to share their mental health journeys with the hashtag #ShadesofMentalHealth. At the bottom of this page, they even have some graphics you can share.
You can also use your hashtags to encourage others to take action. NAMI encourages people to use #Act4MentalHealth to share stories and encourage elected officials to support mental health. And you can use #Vote4MentalHealth to remind people that their vote matters when it comes to supporting mental health policies.
If you want to take it a step further, you might even use your social media to encourage people to sign up to be mental health champions with NAMI. Enrolling in their action center means getting alerts about state and federal advocacy opportunities.
It’s a big month. We hope you’ll join our team here at Doughp in celebrating BIPOC/Minority Mental Health Awareness Month all July long.