This Bebe Moore Campbell post first appeared on bekinly.com.
On June 2, 2008, July was formally recognized as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month by Congress. In 2005 Bebe said, “Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans…It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”
This well-known advocate’s voice opened up conversations for many regarding mental wellness. Bebe is the author of three New York Times bestsellers and she believed loving on oneself is when Black people will prosper. She said, “part of my emotional survival plan must be to actively seek inspiration instead of passively waiting for it to find me.” Our healing is possible but first, we must sit in our own awareness and acknowledge where we are currently with our own and collective wellness. Bebe was a co-founder of National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Urban Los Angeles, a national spokesperson, and journalist who chose to blaze trails for our collective healing.
Pioneers like Bebe were well aware of the inequities in mental health and our current statistics continue to show that there are significant health injustices in the United States. The impact on the Black community is seen in physical, psychological, and spiritual depletion. These inequities also show up in the disparities of quality of life, severity of illness, access to treatment, and life expectancy for Blacks. Health equity will not occur until all humans, including Black people, are provided the opportunity to attain their full health potential and are allowed to live a healthy life.
While many people from the Global Majority, the most updated iteration of “BIPOC” or “minority” (Campbell-Stephens, 2020), have spoken up about their mental health or lack thereof, many more continue to suffer in silence for fear of not being perceived as strong and resilient. “Persistent systemic social inequities and discrimination” worsen stress and associated mental health concerns for POC according to a 2021 report by HHS. The mental health disparity has worsened in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued racial unrest.
Black American adults are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems, such as major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder. While treatment and preventative care are essential for healing, when those providing the care are not culturally sensitive and lack understanding of one’s lived experiences, the hurdles to jump over to receive the care are often stacked against the Black community. Black people are more than their difficulties of the past as we are psychologically fit for freedom. It is vital we have self-awareness and advocate for ourselves. Black wellness will continue to be impeded if we choose to not hold the system accountable for mental health protective factors and community supports. We can no longer afford these expensive tolls on the highway of freedom.
Future Cain is the Founder and CEO of Future of SEL and and recently served as the Statewide Project Coordinator for Social and Emotional Learning and Mental Health. As an equitable social and emotional leader expert, she works with organizations, institutions, and individuals to enhance the culture, health, and well-being of others. This ambassador for humanity helps individuals see how they can positively impact the world by starting with their own self-awareness.
With over two decades of experience in education and leadership, her career expands across several industries including the private behavioral sector, early childhood through higher education, and small businesses and large corporations. She sits on the executive board for Rotary’s World Seminar for high school students, is a mom to two who reside in Wisconsin, and is a certified yoga instructor who is passionate about the mental health and well-being of all adults and children.
Future’s been featured in the New York Times and Forbes for her equity work and has published pieces on K-12 Talk and Kinly. She has been honored as Rotarian of the Year and is an international speaker.