“In a race-conscious society, some don’t want to be perceived as having yet another deficit.”
-Bebe Moore Campbell | Author & Co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles
In 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives proclaimed July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, now commonly referred to as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) Mental Health Month. An NYT best-selling author and educator, Bebe’s journalistic writing style began to evolve in 2003 when she authored, “Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry.” A tale highlighting the unique experience of little Annie growing up with a mom with mental illness, this book ignited Bebe’s passion and lifelong commitment to mental health advocacy for communities of color.
Bebe’s journey to combat stigmatizing social forces and break down barriers to mental health treatment for BIPOC individuals came to a devastating end in 2006 when she passed away from brain cancer. With the help of fervent allies and activists, her dream of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was ultimately realized in 2008.
This July, we not only want to honor Bebe’s work but also encourage crucial conversations about the mental health disparities and accessibility barriers faced by people of color. Just five years ago, among adults with any mental illness, 48% of Whites received mental health services, compared with 31% of Blacks and Hispanics, and 22% of Asians (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2015).
We invite you to get increasingly curious with us about unfair statistics like these, and to reflect on what role our practices could play as we continue to work in the service of BIPOC clients and in the spirit of beneficence. See below for questions to contemplate on our collective and collaborative journey to increased access to treatment, support and quality of care.
- On a scale of 1-10, how familiar are you with the stigma that exists in communities of color? Is seeking mental health treatment culturally accepted? Marked as taboo?
- What does your waiting room say about whose welcome and whose not? Whose seen on the walls? In the artwork? What magazines are up for grabs?
- Does your practice offer sliding scale, or non-insurance options, in recognition of existing economic disparities?
- Are linguistic services available at your practice for individuals with limited English proficiency?
- What is the diversity make up among your team’s mental health providers? What does this tell prospective clients?
- How do you pursue cultural competence in your clinical practice? What role does it play in establishing trust with clients?
- What modalities of care does your organization offer to account for varying cultural beliefs and practices (e.g., trauma-informed, LGBTQ-allied, faith-based)?
- Is your office near or accessible by various methods of public transportation? What obstacles might clients face in getting to you? Is telehealth an option?