NAMI Wisconsin Recognizes July as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental health condition. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background. However, background and identity can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult. National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was established in 2008 to start changing this.
Here are some ways that you can get involved in Minority Mental Health Awareness Month:
1. Educate yourself. Mental health conditions do not discriminate based on race, color, gender or identity. Anyone can experience the challenges of mental illness regardless of their background. However, culture, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation can make access to mental health treatment much more difficult.
2. Spread awareness on social media throughout the month of July using #CureStigma and #MinorityMentalHealth. America’s entire mental health system needs improvement, including when it comes to serving marginalized communities. When trying to access treatment, these communities have to contend with:
A culturally insensitive system
Racism, bias and discrimination in treatment settings
Lower quality care
Lower chance of health care coverage
Stigma from several angles (for being a minority and for having mental illness)
These are all in addition to the usual road blocks. Many cultures also view mental health treatment as a luxury, considering symptoms a “phase” that will eventually pass. These harmful perceptions of mental illness can further isolate individuals who desperately need help. Find information, images and graphics on www.nami.org.
3. Write a letter to your members of Congress and state and local representatives. Emphasize treatment and make sure to stress the importance of culturally responsive providers. These providers have experience, training or expertise in working with individuals and communities from various diverse backgrounds. It’s important that providers take the beliefs, identities and cultural values into consideration when providing care. To find out who represents you, call the Public Policy & Advocacy Director at 608-268-6000.
4. Share your story on the NAMI blog. Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is an opportunity to raise awareness and stop stigma in diverse communities. It’s time to improve the harsh realities minority communities face when it comes to mental illness treatment. In fact, it’s long overdue. Sharing your story helps others to recognize they are not alone.
5. Host an event or community conversation at your local NAMI affiliate. Starting conversations about mental health in your community may feel intimidating—especially if your community views mental illness as a personal fault or weakness. In addition, confronting the many systemic factors that lead to health disparities in communities of color can seem like a hard task to take on. Get the conversation going by inviting leaders who have been change agents in your community in addressing barriers to accessing treatment. The more we talk about mental illness, the more normalized it will become. And NAMI is here to help!
Written by Crystal Hester, Public Policy & Advocacy Director