In May of 2008, the US House of Representatives announced July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Albert Wynn [D-MD] and cosponsored by a large bipartisan group to achieve two goals:
- Improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of mental illness.
- Name a month as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities.
Bebe Moore Campbell was a 3-time New York Times best-selling author who wrote stories that matter involving realistic depictions of families maneuvering the many obstacles created by mental illness. Not only did Campbell write about mental illness, but she was also a real-life advocate on behalf of her daughter who lives with severe mental illness. As co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles and national spokesperson, Campbell passed away in November 2006, but her legacy lives on.
For many BIPOC, mental illness is a difficult subject muted by stigma. Many make their best attempt of somersaulting over the subject like a Simone Biles’ triple-double or avoiding a family member that lives with symptoms related to severe mental illness—- to safely land and remain in their comfort zones. Campbell worked tirelessly to change that.
Regardless of whether you are BIPOC, many are doing mental gymnastics all day long as they backflip over tough questions and somersault under discussions about mental illness. People just don’t want to talk about it, let alone deal with mental illness. In order to eliminate stigma, especially in BIPOC communities, and to support loved ones through mental illness, we must:
-ACKNOWLEDGE the realness of severe mental illness as a global-365 multifaceted issue that does not discriminate.
-ACCEPT our family members with their symptoms related to severe mental illness. Our loved ones may never be the people they were prior to their initial signs of experiencing symptoms related to severe mental illness.
-ADVOCATE for funding, research, and legislation to improve mental health services, treatment, and access. Any one of us can be impacted at any given time. It is imperative to have mental health and wellness services readily available in our local communities.
It took over 30 years for me to fully acknowledge my mom’s mental illness and accept the symptoms related to her illness. I’m grateful for the experiences because they helped me to passionately advocate for metal health and wellness. It is imperative that families and friends know about the resources that are available AND be a part of their loved ones’ treatment.
They need us! Here’s what you can do:
1. Educate yourself about the illness/illnesses.
2. Maintain current contact information for local mental health and law enforcement resources.
3. Have realistic expectations.
4. Reach out for support, even for yourself- It’s ok to go to counseling.
5. Work closely with your loved one’s treatment team.
If you or someone you know would like more information about mental health resources, contact organizations like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI):
Text: NAMI to 741741 / Call: 1-800-950-6264 / Visit: www.nami.org
About the Author:
Attorney Corey Minor Smith is a thought leader in the social justice space with a primary focus on mental health and wellness advocacy in communities across the nation. Smith produces radio roundtable conversations with youth and community members to discuss ways to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.
Currently, Smith serves as General Counsel for Stark Metropolitan Housing Authority of which she was once a resident. She has received numerous accolades and awards, including the Boy Scouts of America Buckeye
Council Spirit of Scouting Award, She Elevates Woman of Courage Award, induction into the YWCA Women’s Hall of Fame, and was named an ATHENA International Women’s Leadership Finalist.
Smith also served as a Canton City Council at Large member after receiving the most votes out of five other candidates. She is the first African-American to ever be elected to a city-wide position in Canton,
OH. As a city council member, Smith focused on supporting community development block grant funds being allocated to address mental health issues among youth and enhancing community awareness about
services and resources available in the community. Whether she is speaking at the lectern, holding forth in
court, or conversing in dialogue in community centers across the country, Attorney Corey Minor Smith is well-versed speaker, thinker and community activist.