July Is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month


By Deasia Lamar, Communications Intern 

 Disparities exist for minority populations with mental illness, and during July, patient advocacy organizations are working to highlight the importance of equity in mental health treatment.  

Established in 2008, Minority Mental Health Awareness Month aims to raise awareness of the mental health struggles that underrepresented and minority groups face. The awareness month’s goal is to improve access to mental health treatment services and promote public awareness of mental illness in communities of color.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in conjunction with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)and the U.S.Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)in 2017, 10.5 percent (3.5 million) of young adults age 18 to 25 had serious thoughts of suicide including 8.3 percent of non-Hispanic blacks and 9.2 percent of Hispanics. Additionally, in 2017, 7.5 percent (2.5 million) of young adults age 18 to 25 had a serious mental illness including 7.6 percent of non-Hispanic Asians, 5.7 percent of Hispanics and 4.6 percent of non-Hispanic blacks.  

 SAMHSA’s 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported by Mental Health America shows that 16 percent (4.8 million) of Black and African American people reported having a mental illness, and 22.4 percent of those (1.1 million people) reported a serious mental illness over the past year. Minority Mental Health Awareness month is an opportunity to advocate for and support these populations. 

 The event was formally called the BeBe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month after its founder BeBe Moore Campbell. Campbell was a journalist, teacher, and best-selling author who became well-known for her work on dispelling mental health stereotypes for African American people. After receiving an Outstanding Media Award for Literature from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for her first book, Campbell continued her advocacy by joining NAMI to speak out against stereotypes surrounding mental illness in communities of color. BeBe Moore Campbell moved on to become a founding member of NAMI Urban Los AngelesCampbell began advocacy for recognition of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month through the National Minority Mental Health Task Force that she founded in 2005. Campbell unfortunately passed away from brain cancer in November 2006. 

Ways to Get Involved: 

  • NAMI offers its program “Strength Over Silence” a docuseries that highlights perspectives on mental health across diverse backgrounds and communities.  
  • Take a “CureStigma” quiz to evaluate personal stigmas against mental illness, and learn how to help spread awareness.  
  • Join NAMI on July 13 and 14, for its national virtual event: NAMICon 2020. No cost registration is available here.