By: Meghaa Ravichandran
With COVID-19 forcing many into an initial quarantine, the ripple effects of our physical and social isolation can be felt across all aspects of people’s lives. Although the return of a semblance of normality has begun to surface, advocacy for mental health also remains important as we find our footing in this new normal. July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and with the continuity of the pandemic, it is crucial to address both the effects of COVID-19 along with generational trauma, racism, exclusion, and more.
A nationally celebrated holiday, there are many resources to access regarding uplifting minority populations and their mental health advocacy efforts. To start with the history of the month, it was formally recognized in June 2008 with the full title being Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Bebe Moore Campbell was an American “author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the black community and other underrepresented communities” (MHA). Witnessing the struggles caused by mental illness and a lack of supportive resources, she founded NAMI-Inglewood and went on to write three New York Times bestsellers.
To begin our advocacy journey this month, the most important step is to stay informed and educated regarding the populations we are uplifting. Around 42% of the U.S. population are people of color, with multiracial communities being most likely to experience alcohol/substance use disorders, anxiety, and depression according to a 2020 Mental Health America (MHA) screening. Indigenous people were most likely to screen positive for bipolar disorder and PTSD.
In a report summarizing their screening results, many key conclusions were drawn, factoring in events such as the COVID-19 pandemic: “Since the end of May 2020, nearly every racial/ethnic group has been experiencing consistently higher rates of suicidal ideation than the 2019 average” (MHA 2020). Additionally, healthcare disparities are a barrier to access mental health resources, so it’s important now more than ever to do our part as an upstander.
The 2022 theme for July is “Beyond the Numbers”, aiming to highlight the importance of each individual’s story in their fight against mental illness. Rather than grouping a person’s experience into statistics, Mental Health America desires to uplift the people behind the numbers to remind us that everyone’s resilience should be celebrated and acknowledged. In the face of trauma, abuse, and oppression, minority communities continue to thrive and break apart from generational curses.