Honoring National Minority Mental Health Month

Written by Latasha Teamer, MS, LPC, LMFT




Mental health goes beyond the absence of illnesses, diagnoses, and diseases. Much of the stigma that surrounds mental health is because we do not fully understand what mental health is and do not communicate about mental health appropriately. Mental health is the sum of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental health plays a huge role in how we respond to stress, interact with others, and make choices. When we experience deficits in our mental health, it can affect how we think, feel, and act and lead to the origination of mental illnesses.


Mental illness refers to a behavioral, emotional, or mental disorder that causes significant distress or impairment to one’s personal well-being and functioning. According to Scott (2020), many people use the terms “mental health” and “mental illness” interchangeably, assuming possibly that while mental illness is the presence of psychopathologies, like depression or anxiety, mental health then becomes the absence of these disorders or diseases. He goes on to explain that thinking mental health and mental illness are interchangeable is both unhelpful and inaccurate, as the absence of illness is not the same thing as health.


Overall health and wellness are highly sought-after goals for many. However, there is still a considerable amount of stigma that surrounds mental health and wellness, which influences our decisions on how we manage our mental health. While much is being done to combat the stigma and misinformation concerning mental health, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities are still significantly less likely to have access to and utilize mental health services. Without access to quality care and equitable representation, the results for these communities are often poorer health outcomes and shorter lifespans.


In May of 2008, the US House of Representatives announced that July would be recognized as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month with the hope of shedding light on the unique struggles communities of color face, as it relates to mental health needs, illnesses, and assistance in the United States. Campbell quoted, "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.'"




What you need to know...


There are various mental illnesses and mental health concerns that go unacknowledged and untreated, especially in BIPOC communities. Numerous studies have researched and confirmed that multiple factors contribute to mental health disparities and barriers for BIPOC communities. Research shows that these communities are challenged with the following:

· Limited access to mental health services

· Less likely to seek out treatment and more likely to end services early

· Less likely to receive culturally responsive, quality care


Additional barriers to be considered are:

· Lack of awareness or understanding of signs and symptoms

· Historical implications

· Generational messages of sacrificial behavior

· Distrust in the system

· Spiritual/religious expectations

· Socio-cultural messages of strength related to identity


What you can do to help…


Understand that words matter. The way we talk about things often influences the way we think about them. If you or someone around you talks about mental health or mental illness in disparaging terms, that then perpetuates the stigma and fosters environments of fear, shame, and silence. It’s important to encourage open conversations about these topics but consider the impact of your words. Any language that reinforces the stigma of mental health or mental illness is harmful and can possibly keep someone from seeking help.

Educate yourself. Be willing to learn more and offer support. There are a myriad of online resources, books and podcasts available to learn more about mental health and disparities in BIPOC communities. Too many people struggle with their mental health in silence. Education offers awareness and knowledge about resources that will allow you to seek help for yourself, your loved one, and those within your community.





Resources…


This list of resources for BIPOC mental health is not meant to be exhaustive. Additional assistance and resources can be discussed further with a member of our Clinical Team. Contact us to see how we can help.


AAKOMA Project (Youth)

Asians Do Therapy

Asian Mental Health Collective’s

Center for Native American Youth

Inclusive Therapist

Melanin and Mental Health

National Latino Behavioral Health Association

Pride Counseling

South Asian Mental Health Alliance

The Trevor Project

Therapy for Black Girls

Therapy for Black Men

Therapy for Latinx

We R Native