July marks Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in the U.S. The pioneer in creating this month of observance was Bebe Moore Campbell, an American author with a particular interest in mental health. She has said she wrote her first children’s book, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry (2003) “to address the fears and concerns of children who have a parent who suffers from mental illness.”
Ms. Campbell fought to end mental health stigma in minority communities and tried to shed light on the differences in the availability of services for minority populations until she passed away in 2006.
And while others have continued Ms. Campbell’s work, Mental Health America points out that “despite progress made over the years, racism continues to have an impact on the mental health of Black/African Americans. Negative stereotypes and attitudes of rejection have decreased, but continue to occur with measurable, adverse consequences. Historical and contemporary instances of negative treatment have led to a mistrust of authorities, many of whom are not seen as having the best interests of Black/African Americans in mind.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), mental health issues in minority communities are impacted by:
- Language and communication barriers;
- Lack of access to mental healthcare and lower rates of insurance;
- Poorer quality of care and providers who hold levels of stigma against minorities.
- A culturally insensitive structural system, and
- Racism, bias, homophobia and discrimination in treatment settings
What is being done to change this situation?
- Mental Health America offers free screening tools then encourages people who take a screening test to follow up with a health care provider.
- NAMI is urging “greater awareness, increased funding for mental health care, and campaigns to encourage those in marginalized groups to seek treatment.” NAMI offers resources and materials to those interested in working towards the same goals, and observes Minority Health Month in July by amplifying their messages.
- The American Psychiatric Association established the Council on Minority Mental Health and Health Disparities to advocate for both minority/underserved populations and psychiatrists. The Council helps build awareness for and provide resources to minorities challenged by mental health issues. It also works to recruit and develop psychiatrist from minority and under-represented groups.
These groups continue to raise awareness for and provide resources for the issue of minority mental health, but more must be done. We must do all we can to urge those we know to seek help.
Mental illness knows no race; mental health should not either.
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Infographic with stats https://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/infographic-minority-mental-health