National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
Each July, we recognize the importance of serving our nation's racial & ethnic minorities who struggle with mental illness.
Prioritizing Minority Mental Health
This national observance raises awareness of the challenges that affect the mental health of racial and ethnic minority groups.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 5 US adults live with a mental illness. Mental health issues are common, treatable and often preventable — but not everyone has access to the resources they need.
People in some racial and ethnic minority groups face more challenges than others getting mental health care.
Mental health is important to overall health — it includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act, and helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.
Racial and ethnic minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors, including lack of access to quality mental health care services, cultural stigma surrounding mental health care, discrimination, and overall lack of awareness about mental health.
Environmental factors can also impact our mental health and emotional well-being. For example, experiencing or witnessing racial discrimination or racial violence can cause stress and racial trauma. Poverty (or having low income) may limit access to mental health care. Poverty can also cause stress and may lead to mental health issues.
How It Began
National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, has been recognized since 2008 to honor the efforts of Bebe Moore Campbell (1950 – 2006), an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate.
Campbell was driven to bring awareness to the unique mental health struggles of racial and ethnic minority communities through her personal experiences with a family member’s mental illness. She was one of the founding members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Urban Los Angeles.
In May 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and recognized that:
- Improved access to mental health treatment and services and public awareness of mental illness are of paramount importance.
- There is an important need for improved access to care, treatment, and services for those diagnosed with severe and persistent mental health disorders and improved public awareness of mental illness.
- An appropriate month should be recognized as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities.
Support. Educate. Advocate!
Everyone benefits when people from racial and ethnic minority groups can thrive. We all have a role to play in achieving health equity.
- Learn about mental health.
- Learn about healthy ways to cope with stress and respond to loss. Engage in these practices, when possible.
- Share information on mental health, healthy coping skills, and resources with family, friends, neighbors, and others in your community.
- Talk about mental health and use non-stigmatizing language.
- Learn about implicit bias. Implicit biases are unintentional attitudes, behaviors, and actions that are in favor of or against one person or group.
- Learn about microaggressions. Microaggressions are everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults. They communicate negative messages to people because of their membership in a marginalized group. Microaggressions can be intentional or unintentional.
- Make ongoing efforts to avoid implicit bias, microaggressions, and other forms of discrimination.
If you need more support:
Public health organizations can take action by:
- Ensuring mental health programming incorporates perspectives, ideas, and decision-making from people from racial and ethnic minority groups at all stages of programming – from planning to evaluation.
- Considering the data on mental health, as well as historical, social, and cultural factors impacting racial and ethnic minority groups, when developing organizational priorities and programs.
- Prioritizing action on and/or account for structural and social determinants of health when designing mental health programs.
- Partnering with other organizations to fill gaps in expertise and representation from racial and ethnic minority groups.
- Monitoring and evaluate mental health programs for progress towards health equity and elimination of racial disparities.
- Incorporating and develop best practices for reducing racism in programs and policies to improve mental health equity.
Health educators & communicators can take action by:
- Ensuring mental health educational materials and communication activities are culturally and linguistically appropriate, inclusive, and respectful. Follow the health equity principles for communication, such as using plain language.
- Taking active steps to increase the reach of mental health information to racial and ethnic minority groups. This should include using culturally responsive communication outlets.
- Verifying and promoting free and low-cost mental health resources through diverse channels.
Healthcare systems can take action by:
- Screening patients for depression and other mental health conditions and refer patients to accessible mental health care services.
- Making mental health educational materials available to all patients during their appointments, via patient portals, and in waiting rooms.
- Making efforts to recruit mental healthcare providers that reflect the race and ethnicity of the populations served.
- Providing cultural humility training to mental healthcare providers.
- Ensuring mental healthcare services are culturally and linguistically appropriate.
States & communities can take action by:
- Expanding community-based mental health care, including culturally responsive mental health services at low or no cost for youth and adults.
- Evaluating policies for their differential impact on social determinants of health. When needed, modify these policies or create new policies that ensure equitable access to resources for all people.
- Evaluating policies for their potential to reinforce mental health stigma and revise or remove stigmatizing policies.
- Encouraging community and faith-based leaders to discuss mental health issues to help reduce stigma.
- Making efforts to ensure decision-makers reflect the races and ethnicities of the populations they serve.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) offers FREE continuing education designed to help you provide culturally and linguistically appropriate services (CLAS):
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH) presents:
Download the OMH Knowledge Center’s suggested reading list focused on minority mental health.
Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health (OMH); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Office of Health Equity in collaboration with National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP) Division of Population Health; and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).