Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Posted on July 19, 2018 by kerri

In its tenth year, National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month aims to work at reforming the American mental health system so that it is accessible and equitable for everyone, including minority populations. Using stories of people belonging to racial minority communities, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) aims to: “Improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of mental illness”, in addition to naming the month after Bebe Moore Campbell, “to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities”. [1] Her friends worked on pursuing her goals after her passing.

Campbell, an African American woman, experienced a loved one’s struggle to accept their diagnosis of bipolar disorder [2]. She said “Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years.” [1] It was from this experience that Campbell unearthed her desire to assure minorities, especially African Americans, that “it’s not shameful to have a mental illness,” and encouraging her community to “Get treatment. Recovery is possible.” [1]

Mental health in minority populations

There are many barriers that minorities in America face in regard to access to mental health care. By becoming aware of these barriers, we can all work to call action upon elected officials to improve mental health care for all populations, including minorities who may experience greater barriers.

According to Mental Health America, barriers to mental health care for many minorities and ethnic groups include [3]:

  • Geographical and cultural challenges; transportation issues for appointments
  • Addressing rural mental health needs despite geography
  • Difficulty in accessing professional support in rural areas
  • Addressing funding, insurance (and non-/under-insurance), and financing issues for mental health services
  • Providing a strong match between providers (“[linguistic] and cultural [competence]”) and patients/community members [3]
  • Decreasing social stigma, especially in minority communities—such as via a targeted campaign like Bebe Campbell Moore envisioned.
  • Lack of integrated services alongside physical and preventative health measures.

Incentivizing professionals to work in remote communities, dedicating funding to minority or rural mental health, using telemedicine/tele-health, and providing resources for pursuing lower cost or pro-bono care are all strategies that could be considered to decrease the burdens of accessing mental health care for minority communities.

Sharing stories

Stigma is decreased when people share their stories. People learn that people with mental illnesses are just that—people like they are! If you have mental illness and are on certain medications, wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace for mental illness may be important. However, a medical ID bracelet or mental health awareness braceletgreen is the colour of mental illness awareness, yellow the colour of suicide prevention and awareness—can also help subtly encourage conversations about mental health.

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