BIPOC Mental Health Month
By Andrea Brown, BMHA Executive Director
Formally recognized in May 2008, National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed each July and was created by Bebe Moore Campbell to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the United States.
As a Black female author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate, Campbell was committed to making others aware of the special issues and challenges that the Black community and other underserved communities faced in addressing their mental health needs and seeking treatment.
Words matter. In close to 40 years of its existence, BMHA has never used the word “minority” in any discussion concerning Black people and it will not do so during the month of July. Therefore, we are unapologetically referring to this month as BIPOC Mental Health Month because there is nothing minor about racially marginalized communities. The BIPOC designation refers to Black, Indigenous People, and People of Color.
Ironically, the month that the United States boasts about her independence, liberty, and freedom is the same month that BIPOC activists see a need to shed light on the unique challenges that underrepresented groups have in this country concerning mental health. The hard truth is that race-related mental and emotional trauma that Black people are facing today is rooted in the time period leading up to the moment that white male land-owning colonists gained their sovereignty and independence from the British Crown. That same trauma has continued today through the many manifestations of white supremacy that has been the undercurrent of American History. Yet, that is a truth that this country will not face or address. Centuries after our own Black ancestors built this country from the ground up, we find ourselves still enslaved mentally and physically.
BMHA has been here close to 40 years sounding the alarm for changes. We have facilitated paradigm shifts that are needed, highlighted existing best practices in our communities, and partnered with other Black-centered organizations and leaders to develop new mental health strategies, and confronted mainstream decision-makers to infuse mental health strategies in healthcare, education and youth development, economic development, and community resiliency.
BMHA is giving a call to action for Black-centered organizations to highlight existing best practices and pull financial resources together for replication so that we do not operate in silos. In areas where such strategies are lacking, BMHA is ready to lead, branch out, and connect with local organizations throughout the country to ensure that Black families, children, and individuals are well for the fight because the United States is still not respectful, compassionate nor is she equitable.