Celebrating Black Indigenous People of Color Month (Formerly Known as Minority Mental Health Month)

Written By: James Holt, LIMHP & Doris Moore, CEO of Center for Holistic Development Inc.

July has been designated as National Minority Mental Health Month since 2009 due to the efforts of Bebe Moore Campbell. Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who recognized the struggles of underrepresented groups when dealing with mental illness in the United States. In an effort to remove the word “minority” and more accurately reflect and honor the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, this effort seeks to expound on the work of Ms. Moore Campbell by creating inclusivity for previously unrecognized mental illness in communities of color.

According to the American Psychiatric Association and the Indian Health Services, Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) suffer from the largest mental health, substance use, and physical health disparities of any other racial and ethnic group in the United States. Indigenous adults also have a higher rate of psychological distress; feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness; feelings of nervousness or restlessness; and suicide (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). They are more likely than persons from other racial and ethnic groups to have needed treatment for substance treatment. Black Indigenous women are 1.2 times and men are 1.3 times as likely as non-Hispanic White counterparts to have experienced violence in their lifetime. Indigenous women are 1.7 times as likely to have experienced violence in the past year compared to their counterparts. This rate is 50% higher than the second most victimized group according to the research. Adverse childhood experiences such as exposure to violence and substance abuse, result in increased prevalence of depression, anxiety, ADHD, school problems, grade failures, and an increased need for medication and counseling in Indigenous children.  These differences are attributed to social and economic-related factors and indicate a need for more attention to the social determinants of health disparities. Black Indigenous people are less likely to seek professional help when experiencing mental health issues. This makes it even more important to educate communities where populations of Indigenous people reside.

When it comes to treatment of BIPOC people within the therapeutic process, Indigenous clients are more likely to receive treatment that devalues their cultural health beliefs and health professionals are more likely to misinterpret Indigenous people, resulting in bias and discrimination. Unfortunately, most professional ethical guidelines inadequately address the potential for harm to marginalized clients due to implicit bias, stereotyping, and dominant social systems, such as heteropatriarchy and racism. Overall, health professionals have a strong impact on health outcomes for Indigenous clients.

Since the pandemic and amid protests for social justice reforms, research indicates that there has been an increase in stressors among people of all cultures. Black Indigenous clients have experienced increased stress due to the rate of infection on Indigenous populations. Indigenous clients are more likely to have comorbid condition affecting their physical health which exacerbates their emotional heath. The Center for Holistic Development, Inc. (CHD) was founded in June 2001 and provides behavioral health services from a holistic perspective in the treatment of all people of color while honoring the cultural nuances. Therapists and other program staff utilize knowledge, awareness, and skills in their approach of the treatment process with Black Indigenous clients. Knowledge is administered through the understanding of one’s own culture, the cultures of others (specifically those being served), and the effects of sociopolitical influences. CHD offers a full spectrum of programs and services that focus on prevention, education, outreach, and intervention. The array of services offered span ages 0-99, are developmentally and culturally appropriate, and include such services as individual, couple, and family counseling; REAL TALK and Urban Youth BOLT (Building Our Leaders Today) for youth; Parenting with a Purpose; and KidSquad for early childhood. If you are interested in more information or have questions, please contact CHD via our website: www.chdomaha.org or call 402-502-9788.