In 2008, July was designated as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to bring attention to the unique challenges that racially marginalized communities face in grappling with mental health conditions. Bebe Moore Campbell was a leading African American journalist, novelist, and a national spokesperson for individuals and families affected by mental illness. For over 30 years, the Black Mental Health Alliance has given a clarion call to the Black community to talk about and address mental health issues and infuses mental health strategies when confronting an array of socio-economic issues that impact Black neighborhoods, families, and individuals.
While we are unapologetically focused on the mental health challenges faced by Black people, we stand as allies with other racially marginalized groups. Throughout the history of this country, Black people have developed the tools and strategies to advocate and fight for basic human rights. We are proud to have created a blueprint for social justice that other groups have then used for advocacy, protest, and legislative changes in their respective communities since the late 1800s.
During the month of July, BMHA will highlight tools and strategies for any racially marginalized group to use when addressing mental health challenges unique to their own community. Currently, the Latinx community is facing the trauma of family separation and being detained in facilities that are inhumane, unconscionable, and quite frankly immoral. Without appropriate intervention and therapy, the trauma that the children and adults are experiencing at the United States border will haunt them for the rest of their lives as well as future generations. While each group has its specific mental health issues, many can be contributed to structural racism and race-based trauma.
We hope that organizations serving racially marginalized communities can turn to the leadership of BMHA just as their predecessors turned to Black activists during the Abolitionist Movement and the Civil Rights Movement. In doing so, we can offer the blueprint to heal from race-based trauma through our recently launched National Institute for Maximal Human Development. Three overarching strategies are the foundation of this blueprint:
Establish a community of culturally-affirming and culturally-competent mental health professionals.
Create educational and professional development opportunities to increase representation within the mental health profession.
Educate those in the community about race-based trauma and the conditions leading to mental health challenges and illnesses.
When educating those in your community, our blueprint focuses on the need to establish programming and initiatives for the youth and educate parents and caregivers about the mental and behavioral health issues impacting children and young adults. As Dr. Patricia Newton said during the “Can We Talk?” Conference, systemic racism is set up to damage a racial group of people as early as childhood. The history of ADOS (American Descendants of Slavery) has repeatedly shown that traumatizing Black children is intentional and deliberate as a way to break their spirit and have an oppressed mindset as an adult.
BMHA stands with all racially marginalized groups–not just in the month of July–but for the time that it will take to eradicate the continuous trauma that is inflicted upon these groups of people due to systemic racism. Count on BMHA as an ally, partner, and resource. As Fannie Lou Hamer said, “No one is free until we are all free!”
Until Victory Is Won!
Jan Desper Peters
Black Mental Health Alliance for Education & Consultation, Inc.