July Is Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month. BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. This month brings awareness to the unique mental health needs these groups face.

Connecticut Children’s Dr. Melissa Santos, Division Head of Pediatric Psychology and Associate Chair for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, shares some historical information, facts and resources.

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“Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans…It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”

–Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005

Who was Bebe Moore Campbell?

She was an author, motivational speaker and an advocate who co-founded NAMI (National Alliance Against Mental Illness) Urban Los Angeles.

Bebe strongly advocated for mental health education and support for people of diverse communities. One of her strongest desires was to break the stigma attached to mental health.

So began the journey with the help of her friend, Linda Wharton-Boyd, who suggested they push for an official national mental health awareness month dedicated to people of color. The duo held book signings, spoke in churches, held news conferences and created a task force.

Sadly, Bebe passed away in the middle of this journey in 2006. But Linda, friends and family continued the advocacy efforts in her honor and were able to pass the official mental health awareness month through legislation.

That is why we have BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month…

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Why do we need this separate month?

Great question.  The much-needed focus on racial injustice the past two years has really highlighted what many have been trying to draw attention to for much longer.

  • Our children, and their families, of color have unique needs and concerns and they require care that matches their needs.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened the climate. For example, there was a sharp rise in the number of Black teen girls going to the emergency room after attempting suicide. Across all sexes and races, they were the most impacted.   
  • We know that people from groups often not in the majority, such as people of color, are less likely to receive a mental health diagnosis, treatment or access to care.
  • When combined with factors such as socioeconomic status, immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity and ability status, we create intersectional identities that raise additional barriers, and fears, in accessing care.   

This is all why we need a separate month – to highlight the much-needed work to ensure that EVERYONE receives the care they need and deserve.

>Related: How Connecticut Children’s Supports LGBTQIA Patients and Families

A diverse group of young adults

How do we change this for the better?

This is a complex problem that is going to require a lot of work in many different areas.  But one way we can start making changes is by talking about it and talking about it with our kids. Research has consistently shown the positive impact talking about issues of race, inequity and social justice can have in children. 

It’s important we give space for kids to seek support and express their thoughts about social injustices and their racial and ethnic identity. Having this outlet will help to build self-esteem and coping skills for future challenges they may face.  Also, here’s where to find the best multicultural and social justice books, movies, apps and more for kids and young adults.

>Related: 10 Apps to Help Kids Deal with Their Emotions

Resources and organizations to support BIPOC mental health:

It’s hard to reach out for help and you may not always know where to turn. The Child Mind Institute provides a list of organizations offering care for BIPOC youth.

Connecticut Children’s is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive culture for our team members, patients and families, and our community partners. Learn more about our organization’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work here