Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was first celebrated in July of 2008 in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell, an author and educator who advocated for equality within the mental health system. Some groups have begun to call it BIPOC Mental Health Month , as they feel that this name more accurately represents all groups including Black, Indigenous, and People of Color . The month also represents those who identify as LGBTQIA+ and individuals of lower socioeconomic status. Regardless of the name, the purpose of this awareness month is to call to our attention to the inequality that exists within our mental health system . The groups discussed are less likely to seek out care and less likely to receive adequate treatment for their mental health issues . As the National Association of Mental Health said, “The inequality and lack of cultural competency in mental health treatment cannot be ignored.” So during this month we make it a priority to bring awareness to those who are less likely to seek or receive adequate treatment. Our focus should be mental health that promotes validation and inclusion for individuals of diverse identities.
Mental illness often carries a stigma , which is why individuals often do not seek care for this disability or talk to others about it. This stigma is stronger within some communities, such as the belief that African Americans are more resilient and therefore should be able to overcome their mental illness without support. Many traditional segments of Asian American culture views those with mental illness as being inferior, which could be why they are less likely to seek out professional help . Individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community are especially at risk for mental illness due to dealing with discrimination in their everyday lives, especially when they are also members of other “at risk” populations. This awareness month also reminds us about the difficulties that these communities may face when trying to find a mental health provider who is culturally sensitive and can speak their native language.
While we still have a long way to go, more and more organizations are recognizing the need for change and are working on increasing education and raising awareness regarding the importance of mental health care and wellness. Mental health professionals need to become more accessible to all populations. The American Psychological Association has offices specifically dedicated to meeting the needs of our diverse population, such as the Health Disparities Office , the Office on Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity , and Office of Ethnic Minority Affairs . The American Psychiatric Association has made available mental health information about various concerned populations and is working to educate its members so that they may be better able to serve these populations. The HHS Office of Minority Health offers free online courses for mental health professionals to improve their cultural competency. Additionally, countless organizations, even those not related to mental health, are using this month to spread awareness of the changes that need to take place within our communities and the mental health system .
As individuals, there is much that we can do to cause change. We can personally work to help remove the stigma of mental health by talking openly about it . Talking about mental health is taboo in many cultures, so beginning conversations about acceptance of mental illness and the path to wellness can help to overcome that taboo. Be aware of signs that you or others may be exhibiting symptoms of mental illness . Seek help when it is needed and be respectful and supportive when trying to help others .
There are numerous resources available to individuals who are in need of mental health support. Mental Health America has online screening for various mental health conditions and then provides information and support so that individuals know what options they have to get help. Psychology Today offers an online search for mental health providers which can be filtered by categories such as language, race, and sexual orientation. For example, Mindful Assessments & Psychological Services is able to provide services in English, Arabic, German, and Korean.
Mental illness can impact anyone, regardless of their place of birth, socioeconomic status, the color of their skin, gender identity, sexual orientation, or the language that they speak. Those who are suffering from mental illness should not have to worry about their ability to get the help that they so desperately need. While the idea of trying to find the right mental health professional for you can be daunting, there are many resources available. By utilizing these resources, you may find hope in learning more about others who were able to successfully address their struggles with mental health.