July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month a time where we focus on the unique challenges that racial and ethnic minority communities in the United States face regarding mental their mental health. Despite making up a significant portion of the population, members of minority communities often go without adequate mental health care due to systemic discrimination and cultural stigma. This month, healed-ish is committed to breaking the silence surrounding and raising awareness about these important issues.
When was National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month Established?
The history of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month can be traced back to 2008, when a group of mental health professionals and advocates came together to create a dedicated month for raising awareness about mental health issues in racial and ethnic minority communities. Since then, the month has been celebrated every July with a variety of events and initiatives aimed at promoting public conversation about these important topics.
Why is National Minority Mental Health Month Necessary?
There are a few things to keep in mind when considering the ways mental health impacts members of racial and ethnic minority communities.
First, it's important to remember that members of these communities often face unique challenges when it comes to their mental health. This can be due to factors like systemic racism and discrimination and cultural stigma. Additionally, economics plays a key role in whether individuals have access to adequate mental health care, and often members of these communities disproportionately suffer from economic inequity.
Second, it's also important to remember that everyone experiences mental health problems differently. Mental illness does not discriminate, and anyone can be affected by mental health issues regardless of their background or identity. This is why it's so important to talk about these issues openly and without shame.
Here are five mental health issues that affect members of minority communities in unique ways:
-Anxiety disorders: Anxiety disorders are the most common type of mental illness, affecting 40 million adults in the United States. However, members of minority communities are less likely to receive treatment for anxiety disorders due to cultural barriers, lack of access to care, and mistrust of the medical system.
-Depression: Depression is a serious medical illness that affects more than 16 million adults in the United States each year. Members of minority communities are at an increased risk for developing depression due to stressors such as racism, discrimination, and poverty.
-Post-traumatic stress disorder: PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after exposure to a traumatic event. Members of minority communities are more likely to experience trauma due to violence, war, natural disasters, and other forms of oppression.
-Substance abuse: Substance abuse is a major public health problem in the United States, affecting millions of people each year. Members of minority communities are disproportionately affected by substance abuse due to factors such as poverty, social isolation, and trauma.
-Eating disorders: Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses that affect millions of people in the United States each year. Members of minority communities are at an increased risk for developing eating disorders due to cultural pressures to conform to certain body types.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, there is help available. There are many organizations that provide support and resources for members of minority communities. These organizations can help connect you with the care and treatment you need. Remember, you are not alone. breaking the silence around mental health can help save lives.
Where can I find out about minority mental health month events?
There are numerous national organizations that have special initiatives during National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The first place to seek information is on the websites of organizations such as National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of those affected by mental illness, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Institute for Children’s Health Equality.
These and other organizations offer a variety of resources and support for those in need of mental health resources and during the month of July, their work especially emphasizes the needs of racial and ethnic minority communities.
What government initiatives have been established to address the particular mental health challenges arising in minority communities?
In May 2021, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1475, the Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act, bipartisan legislation authored by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and introduced by Watson Coleman and Rep. John Katko (NY-24) to address the disparities in access, care and study of mental health issues among people of color. The bill authorizes $805 million in grants and other funding to support research, build outreach programs and train providers to effectively address issues of mental health among racial and ethnic minority communities.
Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, the chair of the Emergency Task Force said, "This is a huge step and one we’ve been building toward since launching the Emergency Taskforce in April of 2019. When I began this work, it was out of a desire to bring federal resources to bear in what was clearly becoming a crisis – resources for awareness, for research, for education and more. We put together a working group of experts, released a report, and finally introduced this bill to ring the alarm and force everyone to pay attention. This bill will give us the tools to address mental health for all communities, and I’m grateful to see it move on to the Senate.”
The Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act is endorsed by The American Psychological Association, The American Psychiatric Association, The Trevor Project, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Mental Health America, Sandy Hook Promise, The American Association of Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, The Jed Foundation, and the Mental Wealth Alliance.
How can I show my support?
In addition to participating in activities sponsored by mental health organizations like the ones noted above, every effort to normalize conversations about mental health helps the cause!
One great way you can initiate conversation is by wearing clothing with messages that support mental health awareness like our mental health shirts. healed-ish mental health apparel features positive affirmations designed to support people who are struggling with mental health issues. By wearing one of our self-care shirts, mental health hoodies, or using other mental health merch, you can help to spread the message that everyone deserves to love and accept themselves just as they are.
In addition to raising awareness, this month is also about celebrating the progress that has been made in minority mental health. We have come a long way in recent years, but there is still more work to be done. This month, let's celebrate the progress that has been made and continue working towards a future where everyone has access to quality mental health care.
Breaking the silence around minority mental health is an important step in promoting healing and recovery for all. During this National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, let's make a commitment to start the conversation and continue working towards a more inclusive and equitable world for all.