By: Camille Pope
Any and every race can have a mental illness, but for minorities, access to good quality mental health care can be more difficult to find. Mental illnesses like depression and anxiety have been on the rise for minority pre-teens and teens in recent years.
According to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services article on Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, “Minorities are less likely” to be diagnosed and/or treated “for their mental illness”. The article also claims that minorities have “less access to mental health services”.
In May 2008, the US House of Representatives declared July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Bebe Moore Campbell was an author, advocate, national spokesperson, and co-founder of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Urban Los Angeles. She’s also received NAMI's 2003 Outstanding Media Award for Literature. Campbell advocated for mental health education and support among individuals of diverse communities. Unfortunately, she passed away in November 2006.
Bebe Moore Campbell and Linda Wharton-Boyd, a life-long friend to Campbell, decided to work on dedicating a month to the cause. They began to outline the concept, make necessary connections, held book signings, spoke in churches and created a National Minority Mental Health Taskforce of friends and allies. As their support system began to increase, Campbell got too ill to continue, due to her cancer.
After Campbell passed away, Wharton-Boyd, friends, family and allied advocates banded together to keep her passion alive. They studied and secured the support of Representatives Albert Wynn and Diane Watson, who co-signed legislation to create an official minority mental health awareness month.
The goal of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is to put a stop to the disadvantages minorities deal with, especially in mental health. Because of certain backgrounds, some people cannot access quality services or mental health services in general. This specifically targets a good amount of the minority population, leaving the best services to non-POC.
During this awareness month, Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health is launching a program called Improving Cultural Competency for Behavioral Health Professionals. This program is meant to help teach health care professionals how to better handle patients with diverse backgrounds.
Sometimes, therapists and counselors cannot relate to the deeper problems of minority students because they have not had to face the same problems in their childhood.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services article, 41.5% of youth ages 12-17 received care for a major depressive episode, but only 35.1% of black youth and 32.7% of Hispanic youth received treatment for their condition. Also in 2017, 18.9% of adults (46.6 million people) had a mental illness. And the rate was higher among people of two or more races at 28.6%, non-Hispanic whites at 20.4% and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders at 19.4%.
In the future, Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, NAMI, and programs alike will help provide more awareness and knowledge about how minorities are affected by the lack of available mental health services and more action will be put forward to change this disadvantage.