Did you know that July was Minority Mental Health Awareness Month? Here, Blessing Dada explains why MMHAM is so important to her…
Bebe Moore Campbell was a leading African American journalist, novelist, and a national spokesperson for individuals and families affected by mental illness in the United States. She was also one of the founding members of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Urban Los Angeles Chapter. After her death in 2006, friends, family, and advocates who were inspired by her work and passion led the charge to create an official minority mental health awareness month. Since then, July has been a time to acknowledge and explore issues concerning mental health, substance use disorders, and minority communities, and to destigmatize mental illness and enhance public awareness of mental illness
I am writing about this to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face, in terms of mental illness. Our identities are formed not only by what we believe to be true, but also the views of others around us.
Different cultures can have a different perspective and interpretation of the term ‘mental health’. In my experience, as an Afro-Irish person, the African community, family, community and spiritual beliefs tend to be great sources of strength and support. Africans generally rely on faith, family and social communities for emotional support rather than turning to health care professionals, even though medical or therapeutic treatment may be necessary in some cases.
Being a Christian, faith and spirituality definitely help me and others in the recovery process but should not be the only option to pursue. Growing up, I always struggled with mental health due to various and ongoing issues in my life.
The two perspectives of cultures I grew up with have always tugged me back and forth, back and forth. I had, being born and raised in Ireland, gone through the education system…where we would have a “national week” dedicated to mental health in secondary school, guidance counsellors, retreats, speakers coming in to talk on the importance of mental health. But naturally and psychologically, as humans, its easier to relate to someone that looks like you and comes from the same background or upbringing as you do.
Mental health issues don’t discriminate. It had to begin with me. I want to encourage black individuals and other ethnical individuals to take care of their mental health. To discuss it in a way that eliminates the stigma attached to seeking help, but explain that, in fact, it is a sign of strength to recognize that you need help, accept it, and seek it out.
I want us to move toward change and equal opportunity by informing, educating, and accepting, that we do not know all that we need to about each other’s culture, but that we care enough to ask questions with cultural humility.
Life is like this V-swing: you have to let go to move forward. Once you make the decision, its scary! But you’ll sure loosen your grasp on old concepts so you can swing your way to new ones…..