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ARLINGTON, VA — This July, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) honors Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month — designated in 2008 by the U.S. House of Representatives — by advocating for underserved groups to have early access to quality mental health care.
While mental health conditions can affect anyone regardless of background, culture or identity, the experience of racial trauma and ongoing discrimination can cause and significantly worsen symptoms. Additionally, communities of color face added barriers to mental health care, such as cultural stigma, lack of available mental health professionals and inadequate community-based treatment options. This is something we must change: Mental health conditions don’t discriminate, and neither should our mental health care system.
“We cannot ignore the intersection of race, identity and mental health,” said NAMI CEO Daniel H. Gillison Jr. “Racism is a public health crisis and has a lasting psychological impact on communities of color across the country. We need systemic change and inclusive solutions to dismantle barriers to quality mental health care and to increase access to culturally competent providers and resources for every community.”
Together, we can raise mental health awareness in communities of color. We can weaken cultural stigma by reinforcing the idea that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness — and, with support, people with mental health conditions can live healthy, fulfilling lives.
Fundamentally, health care professionals need education on the role and impact of implicit racial and ethnic bias, which is at the heart of the ongoing health disparities faced by people of color. Changing these ingrained attitudes and behaviors is essential to eradicate systemic and institutional racism and to ensure access to quality mental health care for all.
NAMI encourages everyone to join us to raise awareness for the July 16 launch of 988, a nationwide mental health and suicide crisis response system. NAMI sees 988 as a step in the right direction by providing a mental health response to a mental health crisis, while reducing law enforcement involvement with people in crisis. By connecting people directly to community-based mental health services, the long-term goal is to end the needless cycling of people through ERs and jails, which are ill-equipped to handle ongoing mental health care.
The recent June 2022 NAMI/Ipsos 988 survey found that 85% of Black Americans say they would be afraid the police might hurt them or their loved ones while responding to a mental health crisis, an 11% increase from Oct. 2021 — and 21% higher than the general population (64%). This new poll also found that most U.S. adults agree that we need to improve mental health crisis responses for underserved communities, including people experiencing homelessness (83%), people with low incomes (82%), young people (79%), people of color (73%) and LGBTQ people (69%).
The NAMI Alliance is here to help with free, community-based, peer-led support groups and education programs. The goal is to offer mental health information, resources and insights from people with lived experience about their journey toward recovery and to provide hope for others. You are not alone on your mental health journey.
If you or someone you love needs help, you can contact the NAMI HelpLine, available Monday–Friday from 10:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m. ET at 1-800-950-6264, email@example.com and online chat. The NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide resource staffed by trained peer-support specialists to answer questions, listen and offer support. They can provide practical next steps, as well as help identify the best local resource options for your individual concerns.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.
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