Today kicks off the first day of July, which means that it’s Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
Also known as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, the observance is intended to spread awareness of the mental health disparities faced by black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) populations.
Mental health challenges don’t discriminate. Anyone can fall prey to common conditions like depression and anxiety—regardless of skin color or ethnicity. However, disproportionate access to quality healthcare and mental health treatments, limited insurance coverage, and the cultural stigma surrounding mental illness have hindered most BIPOC individuals from prioritizing their mental health needs and overall well-being. These historical traumas stem from the systemic racism and oppression designed to make it difficult for those of certain backgrounds and identities to thrive—but enough is enough and change is here.
Keep reading to learn more about BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, mental health resources for underrepresented populations, and more.
What Is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month?
National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was officially established in 2008 and is observed every July. It aims to spread awareness of marginalized communities in the U.S. and the mental health struggles that they face each day.
The initiative was inspired by the late Bebe Campbell Moore—an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate. Moore fought tooth and nail to bring attention to the Black community’s mental health concerns, and will always be remembered for her faithful dedication and acts of service relating to the cause.
The U.S. House of Representatives designated BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month in her honor to celebrate her legacy and continue her advocacy for equitable mental health care.
2023’s Theme: Culture, Community, and Connection
This year’s theme for BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month is “Culture, Community, and Connection.” These three pillars speak to the approaches that marginalized communities have utilized to overcome the odds against us.
For several generations, systemic racism and oppression have been deeply intertwined in the BIPOC experience. Previous generations had to fight for freedom, peace, and equality for their entire lives. Our ancestors marched for basic human rights along with the privilege to simply survive—and the revolution has since continued with our present generation in combating modern-day cultural attacks.
Oppressors have tried time and time again to eradicate power from heavily-populated minority areas, erase history by rewriting recollections of past crises and taking credit for our accomplishments, and sabotage our futures by seeking to cripple BIPOC communities in any way possible.
They’ve gone as far as to try and exterminate BIPOC populations and our likeness through genocide, regentrification, cultural appropriation, and other means of elimination. Hateful world leaders and their followers have worked tirelessly in their attempts to steal our joy and make it harder for us to live, work, play, and thrive in peace. Yet and still, we continue to rise.
The resilience and survival practices gained through ancestral wisdom will forever flow through our veins. As much as they try, oppressors will never be able to take away our power. As long as we remain banded together, efforts to diminish our value and worth can’t succeed.
Despite the strength that we carry, we’re still human with feelings and emotions. There’s work to be done to heal from the traumas that our ancestors faced before us as well as the traumas experienced in our own lives—and we’re doing the work.
How to Get Involved
The saying that “we are products of our environments” couldn’t be truer. There’s significance in the people, places, and things that surround us in our own backyards. It impacts our mental health and wellness more than we think, as what we see is what we become.
There’s power in asking for help from our brothers and sisters. It’s not (by far) a weakness, but rather, a sign of strength. As the saying goes, “We all need somebody to lean on.” It’s not enough for us to look out for ourselves. We must continue to look out for each other as we’ve managed to do over the years because it truly takes a village to raise a strong generation. While the youth can move faster, the elders know the road. It’s imperative that we have both generations working together: one to challenge us to keep going and one to challenge us to do better.
Community-led movements and support systems are essential for bringing forth social change. Connection is often brought by the cultural art, food, stories, and traditions that many of us know and love. Safe spaces offer much-needed safe havens for our rawest thoughts and emotions. All three play major roles in the sustained mental well-being of the BIPOC collective, especially as social isolation becomes the norm and the hostile political climate manages to divide and conquer.
Throughout history, the narrative surrounding BIPOC mental health has led with trauma, oppression, and disparity. Little by little, we’re changing that narrative with widened access to mental health care. BIPOC stories were historically anchored in misery and despair, but are now shifting to stories of healing and unbreakable joy. That’s because knowledge is power. When we know better, we do better. When we have the tools to create happy, healthy, and wholesome lives, it becomes more of a possibility.
We have a long way to go in terms of equitable care, but change and progress are happening all around us as we speak. It’s a blessing to be alive to witness it.
Minority Mental Health Statistics
- According to SAMHSA’s 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 21% of the U.S. African American population reported living with mental illness.
- As of 2020, suicide is the third leading cause of death among African Americans between ages 10 and 24, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The American Psychological Association revealed that just in 2015, 86% of mental health counselors were of Caucasian descent.
Mental Health Resources for Minorities
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)
- National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Office on Women’s Health
- Therapy for Black Girls