July is National Minority Mental Health Month. This campaign began in June 2008 as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month. It was created to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underserved, underrepresented groups face regarding mental health in the United States.
According to the National Alliance of Mental illness, Bebe Moore Campbell was an author, advocate, co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles, and National Spokesperson. Ms. Campbell’s legacy supersedes her even in death, as she passed away in November 2006. Ms. Campbell achieved many awards and accolades during her time on earth. However, her most outstanding achievement occurred in May of 2008, as the U.S. House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month. The purpose of this resolution was two-fold. The first was to improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of mental illness. The second was to name a month in recognition of Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and enhance general understanding of mental illness and mental illness within[NG1] minoritized groups.
Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) have suffered from traumatic experiences and incidents more than any other ethnic group. When talking about mental health and wellness within this demographic, it is often met with shame, embarrassment, and judgment. After Thanksgiving, November 2019 until the present, COVID-19 and the racial/social injustices have plagued this society. When you compound that with the lack of access to mental health treatment, therapies, and empathic understanding for humane acceptance, it is a wonder that we still have our faculties.
The following is a list of supporting statistics in justification of better and accessible mental health awareness and treatments per the American Counseling Association:
· African American people living below poverty are twice as likely to report severe psychological distress as those living over two times the poverty level. (CDC)
· Men of African descent are nine times more likely than White men to be victims of homicide.
· Historical adversity translates to socioeconomic disparities experienced by African American people, which is linked to mental health.
· Adult African Americans are more susceptible to feeling hopelessness, sadness, and worthlessness than White Adults. (CDC)
· Hispanics/Latinx parents may expedite assimilation in their children by promoting the adoption of American culture. By doing so, can lead to internalized racism which can cause depression and low self-esteem.
· Latina adolescents attempt suicide at higher rates than other gender/ethnic groups: 20% of Latina adolescents report a plan to commit suicide and 11.1% attempt suicide.
· Xenophobic racism against Asian Americans has surged as COVID-19 swept the United States, with reports of hate crimes averaging approximately 100 per day.
· Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for Asian Americans ages 15-34.
· One study found that 70% of Southeast Asian refugees receiving mental health care were diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
· Women who emigrate from the Middle East may be subjected to domestic violence, particularly if they entered arranged marriages with American men.
· Asylum seekers from the Middle East may cope with mental health issues related to situations they have fled, including torture, war, political oppression, and other circumstances.
· Due to the high poverty levels, many Native Americans face economic barriers that prevent them from receiving treatment.
· Compared to White Americans, three times, many Native Americans lack health insurance – 37% compared to 6.3%. Approximately 2.5 million Native Americans rely on the Indian Health Services for care.
· Native Americans who meet the criteria for depression, anxiety, or substance abuse disorders are significantly more likely to seek help from a spiritual healer than from a specialist.
When you review these statistics, it is blatantly apparent that access to mental health treatment is necessary for all minoritized communities. The American Counseling Association laid out the reason why BIPOC Mental Health Matters:
African Americans and Hispanic Americans used mental health services at about ½ the rate of White Americans in the past year.
Asian Americans used mental health services at about 1/3 the rate of White Americans in the past year.
36% of Hispanic Americans with depression received care, versus 60% of White Americans.
In 2018, 58.2% of Black and African American young adults ages 18-25 and 50.1% of adults 26-49 with serious mental illness did not receive treatment.
Only 8.6% of Asian Americans sought any mental health services or resources compared to nearly 18% of the general population nationwide.
As a nation, we must do a better job addressing the current barriers hindering access to mental health assistance. When you observe obstacles that are contributing to the broken mental health system, we must find ways to improve the following:
Cultural and Racial stereotypes and stigmas
Lack of healthcare
Lack of empathetic treatment for BIPOC
Fear of deportation if you are a refugee and immigrant.
Intergenerational conflict and emotional responses
Shame and embarrassment when diagnosed and living with chronic and terminal illnesses.
Lack of social structures or support systems
The admission that we need assistance.
Only when this society views all its occupants as humans can we begin the transformational work necessary to promote healing for this nation. Suppose we continue to view African Americans as 3/5th of a person and shy away from a humane discussion on critical race theory. In that case, we will never be healed from the wounds of the past. If there is any compassion in this world for humanity and equitable treatment, let it begin with who you see in the mirror every morning.
Afterward, imagine if you were told that your life never mattered, and you had to walk in that feeling for the rest of your life. Nowhere can these inequities be seen more prominently than in the dialysis/transplant BIPOC community. In Part 2 of this blog, Patrick shares his own very personal journey dealing with chronic kidney disease, and the aftereffects of Covid-19, all of which pushed his endurance to the brink.
The Book of Proverbs 31:8-9 says: “Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And plead the cause of the poor and needy.” As Americans, let us learn to champion on behalf of righteousness and justice for the voiceless and the afflicted.