Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

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The month of July marks the annual Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.  The event was officially declared in May of 2008 by the US House of Representatives to take place in July of every year to offer organizers the opportunity to foster mental health in diverse communities.  It was also established in recognition of the fact that providing improved access to mental health treatment and services and awareness is of paramount importance, and that an appropriate month should be recognized to change public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities.

The month-long event was named after Bebe Moore Campbell (also referred to as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month) in honor of her work in this particular field.  Campbell is the co-founder of the National Alliance for Mentally Ill Urban Los Angeles, a University of Pittsburgh Trustee, and has long been an advocate for bringing awareness to mental illness among minorities.  She is the author of the New York Time’s Bestselling 72 Hour Hold and the children’s book Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, both of which have furthered the cause.

Events for July 2012 included the first annual No Shame Day on July 2nd to promote candid discussion about mental illness stigma. The National Resource Center for Hispanic Mental Health also partnered with M3 to release a Spanish Language version of WhatsMyM3, an anonymous tool that screens for depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.  There were also events held around the country by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) including Colorado, Kentucky, Mississippi, Texas, George, and Virginia.

Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disabilities in American, affecting one out of every four families.  According to NAMI, the direct and indirect costs to the workplace on an annual basis total $34 million.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, many suffer from more than one disorder, with as much as 45% with one diagnosable disorder meeting the criteria for two or more.  In 1999, a released report from the Surgeon General estimated that more than 54 million Americans have a mental disorder in any given year, but less than 8 million seek treatment.  Adult Caucasians are more likely to seek treatment than adult African Americans, though disorders occur in both groups at the same rate when taking into account socioeconomic factors.

African Americans experience a much greater unmet need for mental health services and generally receive less quality of care.  They are also misdiagnosed at a higher rate within the delivery system.  Two-thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental illness don’t seek treatment due to stigma, lack of community-based resources, and an inadequate or no diagnosis.  It is also estimated that 50-70% of all youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health problems.

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Sources: www.nami.org/; www.govtrack.us/

More information: http://nned.net/; www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Multicultural_Support

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