July marks the beginning of National Minority Health Awareness Month. The legislation was officially signed in May of 2008 and was named after the late Bebe Moore Campbell. Bebe had been the co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles and was a national spokesperson. Bebe advocated for mental health education and fought to end stigma. Along with friend, Linda Wharton-Boyd, she started working in 2005 on the concept of a National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The two held book signings, spoke in churches, and created a mental health taskforce. Sadly, Bebe was also battling cancer at the time and became too weak to continue the important work. Her friend Linda and others found the support needed to continue Bebe’s dream after her passing and were able to get the official National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month proclaimed by the United States House of Representatives.
The purpose of the month was to achieve two goals. One was to improve mental health treatment and services for minorities. The other was to name the month after Bebe Moore Campbell while enhancing public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities. It became an opportunity to raise awareness and stop the stigma in minority communities, as mental health conditions do not discriminate.
The challenge of a mental illness can affect any of us, but depending on culture, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, the access to treatment may be more difficult. Minority communities face some disparities regarding mental health. Some of these include: poorer quality of care, higher levels of stigma, language barriers, and being less likely to receive treatment. Along with those disparities, some cultures view mental health treatment as a luxury. Others view the symptoms as a “phase” that will just pass. To help with those perceptions, it is important to find a provider that is culturally competent. Look for a provider that will integrate your beliefs and your values into making your treatment most effective.
In the words of Bebe Moore Campbell, “It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”
Lori Atkinson, Operations Assistant for The Kim Foundation
Lori Atkinson joined The Kim Foundation in May 2015 as an Operations Assistant. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNL in Middle Level Education. She was an 8th grade English teacher in the Omaha Public Schools for ten years and started a small non-profit in her husband’s memory in 2010. Lori assists with many of the day-to-day tasks for The Kim Foundation which includes scheduling presentations in the community, coordinating booths at conferences, attending mental health trainings, researching mental illness/suicide, and working community events. Lori is the proud mom of three children and is actively involved in her church.