May has been designated Mental Health Awareness Month since 1949 by Mental Health America (MHA)*. MHA’s theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness month is “Back to Basics” and the organization has created a toolkit which acknowledges that ‘after the last two years of pandemic living, many people are realizing that stress, isolation, and uncertainty have taken a toll on their well-being’. MHA has created the toolkit to ‘provide foundational knowledge about mental health and mental health conditions, and information about what people can do if their mental health is a cause for concern’. With nearly 1 in 5 American adults displaying a diagnosable mental health condition in any given year, resources like the MHA toolkit serve a critical purpose in helping individuals identify ways to address their mental health needs.
CHCANYS recognizes that individuals from marginalized communities, such as those served by federally qualified health centers, experience elevated psychosocial risks and overt systemic threats to their well-being. These threats include racism in multiple forms: systemic, interpersonal, institutional, internalized, racial oppression, and intergenerational racial trauma. Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) ‘experience a disproportionately high burden of disability from mental disorders’, and ‘Black adults are 20 percent more likely to report serious psychological distress than adult Whites’. The threat of racialized violence is a specific form of terror with a deleterious effect on BIPOC mental health. Anti-Black violence presents at the systemic and social level and manifests in the fact that ‘police killing is a leading cause of death for Black men in the United States’.** The ‘racist’ slaughter at a Buffalo grocery store on May 14th, 2022, is the latest episode in a troubling rise of violence against African Americans’***.
CHCANYS stands with the Buffalo community – the City of Good Neighbors – and with the health center staff who serve that neighborhood and work tirelessly to address the trauma experienced by the Black residents there, including their allies. CHCANYS understands that the collective well-being of a community requires good mental health across the entire population in all its diversity, and this demands continued action in the service of social justice and health equity.
Check out these resources to learn more about Mental Health Awareness Month and how you can better understand the needs of BIPOC:
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Learn about the federal government’s plans to transform mental health services for all Americans and to address the mental health challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including substance use, youth mental health, and suicide.
Mental Health America: The organization’s work is driven by its commitment to promote mental health as a critical part of overall wellness, including prevention services for all. MHA recognizes that the country’s legacy of racism and other forms of discrimination negatively impacts mental health, but discourse around mental health in our nation often erases the role of inequity and oppression. Take a look at MHA’s fact sheet entitled Black and African American Communities and Mental Health.
National Alliance on Mental Illness: NAMI believes that all people should be treated with respect and dignity and experience equitable outcomes. NAMI supports public policies and laws that work to eliminate mental health inequities perpetuated by racism and racial discrimination. Please take time to watchNAMI’s short video on the need for diversity in the mental health workforce.
VOICES Mental Health and the Black Community: Take a look at PBS North Carolina’s video illustrating African Americans’ experience with mental health issues and their attempts to overcome the stigma embedded in mental health treatment services against BIPOC.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Learn more about mental health treatment resources available on the SAMHSA website, whichincludes sites where practitioner trainings can be accessed.