Bebe Moore Campbell, an African American author and journalist, did everything in her power to make sure that her daughter had access to the mental health treatment she needed. During her efforts, Bebe realized that minorities face a variety of challenges in getting adequate mental health care. She knew that something had to change, and she wanted to raise awareness of those issues.
Part of Bebe Campbell's legacy is the founding of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, and in this article, we aim to spread awareness of minority mental health issues ourselves. We discuss key issues that affect minority groups' access to mental health care, and we share actionable steps on how anyone can spread awareness themselves.
When did Minority Mental Health Awareness month start?
National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month first started in July 2008 after Bebe More Campbell addressed the U.S. Congress. During her address, Campbell shared her experiences dealing with mental health issues with her daughter. In particular, she described how minorities face challenges when battling mental health that go beyond their medical diagnoses.
Those challenges are often rooted in complex topics such as race, immigration, and historical contexts. For example, Bebe noted the interplay between race, mental health, and stigmas towards receiving mental health treatment among the Black and African American communities. She stated, "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.'"
In recognizing these complex challenges that minority communities face when dealing with mental health, the U.S. House of Representatives declared July as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Campbell also furthered her work by founding the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) chapter in the Ingelwood community of Los Angeles. The chapter operates in a majority Black and African American community, and it focuses on providing culturally competent care to minorities who struggle with mental health.
What issues affect minorities who struggle with mental health?
When a member of a minority community faces a mental health issue, they often have to deal with issues surrounding access to care. Unfortunately, members of minority groups are usually more likely to face challenges accessing care than are members of the general population.
One of these issues is paying for care. Often, members of minority groups are less likely to have health insurance, and in many cases, they do not have the funds for private pay options. For example, members of the Black, African American, and Hispanic communities are more likely to receive healthcare primarily from the emergency room when compared to members of the general population. As a result, those individuals often do not have a primary care provider, do not invest in preventative medicine, and lack continuity of care over their lifetimes. Relatedly, members of the Native American community face poverty more than twice as often as members of the general population, and paying for mental health care can be a significant challenge.
Another common issue in accessing mental health care is overcoming stigmas on both a cultural and family level. While Campbell noted the impact of race and stigma on mental health for members of the Black and African American communities, similar issues are prevalent among Asian American communities. Mental health issues and treatment are often taboo among Asian American communities, and admitting one's struggle with mental health can be shameful. Instead of seeking treatment, members of the Asian American community may maintain silence on their mental health struggles, particularly regarding matters of depression and suicide.
A third challenge for accessing mental health care among minority groups is overcoming language barriers. This challenge is particularly the case for older populations of minority groups, recent immigrants, and members of the Hispanic and Latinx communities whose primary language is Spanish. Mental health issues are complicated topics, and mental health treatment can be difficult when patients and providers struggle with communication.
How to raise awareness of minority mental health issues
Anyone can participate in Minority Mental Health Month, and it is possible to participate virtually while respecting social distancing guidelines. One way to engage is by sharing supportive and educational image content as part of NAMI's You Are Not Alone campaign. You can post the content on social media using the hashtags #NotAlone, #MinorityMentalHealth, and #MMHAM.
Another way to participate is by taking part in NAMI's Personal Stories campaign and sharing your own lived experience with mental health issues. These stories can provide comfort to people struggling with mental health right now, and they can look to your story as a source of support. NAMI will post select stories on their Personal Stories blog page.
How Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute can help
Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute strives to provide inclusive and culturally competent care to the greater Georgetown, Texas, and Austin, Texas, communities. We offer adult outpatient mental health programs, and we also provide adult inpatient mental health treatment for patients who require more intensive programs. To get started, please call our hotline anytime at (512) 819-1154 to schedule your free mental health assessment.