National BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month
July is recognized as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. However, over the years , studies have recognized the importance of person-first language in which personhood is prioritized before diagnosis or disability.1 Because of this change in how we should think about communities of people, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other People of Color) has become the appropriate term to replace “minority”, thus also recognizing July as BIPOC Mental Health month.
American author and mental health advocate, Bebe Moore Campbell, worked tirelessly towards equitable mental health care for both Black communities and other communities that are underrepresented. Because of her work, on June 2nd 2008, Congressman Albert Wynn formally recognized the month of July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, which is now known as BIPOC Mental Health Month.2 This annual observance focuses on bringing awareness to the ongoing discrimination and inequities BIPOC communities face that may play a part in the mental health disparities.
Mental illnesses are common in the United States, and according to the CDC, 1 in 5 Americans will go through a mental illness in a given year and 1 in 25 Americans will live with serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, Major depression or bipolar disorder.3
Studies show that BIPOC communities often face many barriers in receiving treatment for mental illnesses. Barriers to treatment include but are not limited to, such as lack of accessibility, being less likely to continue care and being most likely to receive a poor quality of care. Many of these barriers are rooted in a historical mistrust of medical professionals, stigma rooted in BIPOC communities surrounding mental health, a lack of cultural humility and competency within the medical professionals that care for these populations.4
Current efforts to close the gap in mental health disparities include:
- Education and awareness on the signs on mental illness
- Pushing for policy change such as universal mental health care coverage
- Advocacy and outreach in communities that have been underserved
- Integrating behavioral health care with primary healthcare to improve access.5
As preventionists, we can also take part in these efforts by continuing training with primary care specialists the importance of the social determinants of health in addressing mental illnesses while also raising awareness on the practice of cultural humility. Take a look at a resource on Improving Health Outcomes for Diverse Populations to learn about understanding the behaviors contributing to disparities and the marginalization of BIPOC, such as stigma, stereotyping, and macroaggressions.
- Person-centered language. Mental Health America. https://www.mhanational.org/person-centered-language. Accessed June 24, 2022.
- Torres A. A Pioneer of Equitable Mental Health: Honoring Bebe Moore Campbell. Mental Health America. https://www.mhanational.org/blog/pioneer-equitable-mental-health-honoring-bebe-moore-campbell. Published May 4, 2022. Accessed June 24, 2022.
- Key substance use and mental health indicators in the United States: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2016
- Perzichilli T. The Historical Roots of Racial Disparities in the Mental Health System. Counseling Today. https://ct.counseling.org/2020/05/the-historical-roots-of-racial-disparities-in-the-mental-health-system. Published May 7, 2020. Accessed June 24, 2022.
- Understanding Barriers to Minority Mental Health Care. Department of Nursing. https://nursing.usc.edu/blog/discrimination-bad-health-minority-mental-healthcare/. Published May 10, 2018. Accessed June 24, 2022.