Mental illness affects 1 in 5 Americans every year, regardless of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. While mental illness is never easy, it is treatable and recovery is possible. However, for the roughly 16.3% of adults in the United States Hispanic community that are affected by mental illness, reaching recovery is complicated by many factors including less access to treatment, poorer quality of care, higher levels of stigma, culturally insensitive health care systems, language barriers, lower rates of health insurance, and more. To bring awareness to the complex mental health needs of minority communities throughout the United States, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recognizes July as National Minority Mental Awareness Month.
National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is celebrated in honor of Bebe Moore Campbell – author, advocate, co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles, and national spokesperson. Campbell spent her career advocating for mental health education and support among individuals of diverse communities, and received NAMI’s 2003 Outstanding Media Award for Literature. In 2005, inspired by Campbell’s work, longtime friend Linda Wharton-Boyd suggested dedicating a month in her honor. Campbell unfortunately lost her battle with cancer in 2006, but her legacy lives on through Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
Saginaw MAX System of Care proudly celebrates National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, as do other communities across the nation, with a local event to raise awareness about the mental health needs of the minority populations in our community. Last year, the Saginaw MAX Cultural and Linguistic Competency Team coordinated a community-wide discussion to promote mental health awareness and provide specific information for individuals who identify as members of minority groups, including African American/ Black, Native American/Alaskan Native, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino. Information was also provided for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning communities as well. The community discussion, called the “Lawn Chair Chat,” was open to the public and held at the Saginaw Mexican American Council. It included small guided discussion groups, minority health and resources informational handouts, children’s activities, snacks, and a photo booth.
“There was a lot of great information that came out of our first Minority Mental Health Awareness event last year,” explained Saginaw MAX Cultural and Linguistic Competency Coordinator Dalia Smith. “One of our main goals with this event is to raise awareness around significant disparities that exist in the mental health world for persons of color due to stigma, and the feedback we received from the discussions provided valuable insight that we were able to share with our community partners to help address some of these disparities.”
The Saginaw MAX Cultural and Linguistic Competency Team will be hosting its second annual Minority Mental Health Awareness Month event at the end of July – more details will be available soon. For more information on Saginaw MAX System of Care and National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, visit maxsaginawsoc.org.