Updated: Jul 24
The purpose, key takeaways, and things to keep in mind for the future.
The end of July marks the end of Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The month was officially recognized by the United States House of Representatives in 2008 largely in part due to the efforts of mental health advocate, Bebe Moore Campbell.
The first was to combat the stigmatization of mental illness by increasing public awareness and improving access to treatment. The second was to create a month to be able to “educate the public regarding mental illness along with mental illness among minority groups”; this month would eventually become Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
Twelve years after the proposal has passed, efforts have been made to change nomenclature of this month. In particular, organizations, such as Mental Health America, have decided to utilize “Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color” (BIPOC) to better illustrate the groups that this month represents to further Bebe Moore Campbell’s efforts.
While Campbell has since passed, her legacy remains. Her efforts continue to affect thousands of individuals today and have taken us a significant step closer to de-stigmatizing mental illness through education, finding ways to assist those struggling with mental illness, and highlighting the struggles that minority groups face in dealing with mental illness; an issue that the American Psychiatric Association, emphasizes continues to persist. According to the aforementioned source, “racial/ethnic... minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors including inaccessibility of high quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health."
I’d like to finish this post with a quote from Campbell. It highlights not only the need for the de-stigmatization of mental illness, but the importance of cultural competency in approaching the unique barriers that minority groups face in receiving help for mental illness:
“People of color, particularly African-Americans, feel the stigma more keenly. In a race-conscious society, some don't want to be perceived as having yet another deficit. Others find it hard to trust medical personnel who don't seem to understand their culture. Some studies show that Latinos and African-Americans are much more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than whites, even though the illness occurs in all races at the same rate. The psychiatric community must address inequities in treatment.
Once my loved one accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can't we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to de-stigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African-Americans. The message must go on billboards and in radio and TV public service announcements. It must be preached from pulpits and discussed in community forums. It's not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”
-Bebe Moore Campbell, November 2005, NPR Morning Edition Commentary
AYANA’s objective is to match marginalized communities with compatible licensed therapists based on their unique experiences and identities across race, gender identity, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability. Due to its unique approach, AYANA integrates cultural competency and accessibility to ultimately close the gap and address barriers that minority groups face in mental health care.