July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (MMHAM)

Sixteen years ago, the U.S. Congress enacted legislation to officially establish July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month (MMHAM).

Bebe Moore Campbell is a pioneering advocate for minority mental health awareness and issues related to minority mental health. She’s the author of ten books on a range of topics, from children’s books to books on family issues among minority groups to books on the general topic of minority mental health. Her books are well-known, have made the New York Times Bestseller List, and are considered essential reading for anyone interested in the topic of minority mental health.

However, she’s most famous as the driving force behind the creation of MMHAM. She’s clear about why we need a month dedicated to raising awareness about minority mental health:

“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.”

 In past years, Mental Health America (MHA), the primary sponsor of MMHAM, identified a specific, focused theme for the month. For instance, last year, the theme was Culture, Community, and Connection. This year, the scope is broad, but revolves around three topics:

  1. Recognizing stigma around mental health in minority communities.
  2. Understanding generational differences in beliefs about mental health in minority communities.
  3. Encouraging members of minority communities to talk about mental health.

To learn more about MHAM Month, please visit the MHAM page and read or download this helpful information:

BIPOC Mental Health Month Toolkit

Note: BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. This acronym is a way of recognizing the various minority groups in the U.S. that’s widely accepted by minority groups as a non-discriminatory way to refer to and discuss their communities.

MMHAM Month 2024: The Issues

As we mentioned above, MMHAM in 2024 focuses inward, rather than outward as in previous years. By that we mean that this year, the toolkit – while including information directed toward non-minorities – includes helpful information for people in minority communities to facilitate a greater understanding of the issues embedded in their respective cultures and traditions.

For these communities, the goals are to reduce stigma, encourage intergenerational communication, and debunk common myths about mental health in minority communities. We’ll start with a discussion of the various ways in which stigma manifests in different minority and BIPOC communities.

Arab/Middle Eastern:

  • Many members of this community and cultural tradition see mental health issues as a sign of personal failure.
  • They may fear judgment if they disclose a mental health disorder or challenge, because it may alienate them from friends and family.
  • In some cases, members of this community may see a mental health disorder as a type of spiritual punishment, which can prevent an individual from seeking support in the form of psychotherapy or medication.

Asian/Pacific Islanders:

  • In Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the U.S., the model minority myth is powerful and can have negative consequences, such as preventing individuals from seeking professional support.
  • The model minority myth stereotypes Asians and Pacific Islanders as smart, hardworking, diligent.
  • Many A/PI people believe that in order to succeed in the U.S., they must embody the stereotypes in the myth, and that a mental health disorder would prevent them from being the model minority.
    • This would not only make their family look unsuccessful to outsiders, but also reflect poorly on all Asians or Pacific Islanders.
    • That’s a heavy weight to carry – especially for a person attempting to manage a clinical mental health disorder.
  • In some families, discussing mental health issues outside the core family unit might be seen as a betrayal of trust, and family members may fear shame and judgment from other members of the community.

Black/African American:

  • In Black and African American communities, many people see asking for help with mental health problems as an indication of weakness
  • Weakness may be viewed as an individual or spiritual failure.
  • In some cases, community members believe mental health issues are trivial in comparison to centuries of slavery and segregation.
  • Therefore, they’re not interested in talking about them: after going through the crucible of oppression, many feel that they should be able to handle mental health issues on their own, without any help.

Indigenous Communities:

  • People from communities of Indigenous descent may fear being seen as weak if they develop mental health issues.
  • Indigenous families prioritize family ties often espouse a collectivist worldview, in which physical, emotional, and psychological challenges are best addressed within the community, using traditional cultural approaches.
  • Some members of indigenous communities believe seeking support outside their cultural traditions may degrade their community status, and bring shame to the family.

Latine/Hispanic Communities:

  • Personal and family privacy are a driving force in the way many Latine/Hispanic people view mental health issues, which may prevent them from going outside the family for help.
  • People in Latine and Hispanic communities often espouse the dictum la ropa sucia se lava en casa, which means, essentially, don’t wash your dirty laundry in public.
    • In the case of mental health issues/diagnoses, many Latine/Hispanic people see them as negative – i.e. dirty laundry that should be kept private – which may prevent them from seeking professional support.
  • In some cases, deep religious affiliation and tradition results in the belief that demons or committing sin can explain the presence of mental health disorders. This may prevent older, more traditional community members from seeking help, and prevent younger members of the community from being open about mental health issues.

Multiracial Communities:

  • Consider this: a person with a multiracial cultural heritage may experience challenges common to two or more of the communities we discuss directly above.
  • Stigma from multiple angles and for multiple reasons may prevent an individual from a multiracial community or background from seeking support.
  • In addition, being multiracial can include alienation associated with not being enough of a particular group.
    • Members of a multiracial family or community may be seen as not black enough, not Latin enough, or not connected enough to indigenous roots.
  • This can exacerbate feelings of isolation and prevent people from taking about or seeking professional support out of fear of increased alienation.

Those are the fundamental ways stigma appears in BIPOC communities. To be clear, none of the communities we discuss above are completely heterogenous. There’s a wealth of diverse opinions and viewpoints in every community. The things we point out above are common issues that may impact mental health, but it’s important to note that many members of these communities understand the negative consequences of stigma, and will seek professional support.

Next, let’s look at the role of generational wisdom in BIPOC communities.

Generational Wisdom: Old and New Perspectives Matter

When we talk about generational wisdom, we almost always think of it as wisdom passed down from previous generations to the current generation. That makes sense. It’s important to stay in touch with how our forebears managed everything, from mental health issues to family dynamics to the best meals to make for specific occasions. It’s also important to maintain cultural traditions so that they’re not lost to time. We need to recognize the value of traditions that developed before 20th and 21st century medicine and technology.

However, younger generations have important and critical experience and skills to offer older generations, too. We often forget to validate and recognize the value. Therefore, we’ll start this section with how younger generations of BIPOC people can help older generations during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.

Sharing Generational Wisdom: Younger to Older

Here are the ways in which the knowledge and experience of people from younger generations can help people from older generations:


In the U.S., most working psychiatrists and psychologists work only in English. The majority don’t receive any formal training in supporting patients who don’t speak English. And any people in minority communities from older generations aren’t fluent in English. This creates problems. Members of younger generations can help members of older generations by:

  • Helping to search for support online.
  • Helping fill out any and all health-related paperwork.
  • Calling potential providers on the phone and explaining the situation with detail and precision prohibited by the language barrier.
  • Finding insurance.
  • Accessing social services and auxiliary support, such as finding a qualified translator to faclitate treatment sessions.


Evidence shows digital skills are important for learning about mental health issues. Members of younger generations can help members of older generations by:

  • Accessing vital information online regarding minority mental health, including podcasts, blogs, webinars, or other helpful resources.
  • Helping older community members connect with others on social media.
  • Helping older community members find in-person support groups via online sources


In BIPOC communities, many members of younger generations have experience talking about mental health issues. Many understand that traditional stigma around mental health can have negative impact on overall wellbeing. People from younger generations learn about mental health issues in various places, such as at school, online, or at doctor’s appointments.

People from younger generations who live with people from older generations often have a foot in both worlds. They understand both perspectives and can explain to family members – and others – from older generations the negative consequences of stigma around mental health. They can also explain the positive consequences of accessing current evidence-based care for mental health disorders and/or challenges.

For a person from an older generation, hearing this information from someone they know and trust, in a language and communication style with which they’re familiar, can make the difference between seeking support and not seeking support.

Sharing Generational Wisdom: Older to Younger

Here are examples of how the wisdom, experience, and cultural knowledge of people from older generations can help people from younger generations:

Healing Traditions

Members of older generations often have and understanding of traditional healing practices considered holistic. In this contest, holistic practices mean those in which mind, body, and soul are viewed as connected. Anything that affects one has an impact on the other. Holistic healing practices may include:

  • Healing circles
  • Sweat lodge rituals
  • Smudging/cleansing with incense
  • Reiki

Recent publications – read them here and here – show that some people who use traditional healing methods report improvement in psychological distress, and a reduction in symptoms of mental health disorders. Please take a moment to read “Exploring Mental Health Practice Among Traditional Health Practitioners: A Qualitative Study In Rural Kenya.” This study offers an in-depth look at combining modern and traditional mental health care in 21st century Kenya.


  • Think of collectivism as an external manifestation of a holistic worldview.
  • Collectivism is the perspective that all people are interconnected and interdependent, and what impacts one person impacts everyone.
  • This concept can create powerful networks of social support. Robust support networks are essential in learning to manage challenges associated with mental health disorders.

Lived Experience and Family Knowledge

  • Overcoming hardship – whether associated with mental health issues or life circumstances – leads to valuable knowledge anyone can use. Older generations can share the tools and skills that helped them get through times of anxiousness and low mood. This  can help younger generations manage what they may call anxiety and/or depression.
  • Specific knowledge about the life stories and challenges experienced by long-gone relatives can shed light on family history of mental illness.
  • People from older generations can often spot predictors of mental health issues in younger generations, based on their first-hand knowledge of what mental health disorders look like in members of their family.

It’s clear that generational knowledge works both ways. Members of younger generations can help members of older generations move past stigma and accept contemporary mental health support. Members of older generations can show members of younger generations the mental health benefits of traditional approaches. It’s important they know not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Rather, older generations can teach younger generations to use what’s healthy and what works without judgment.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month: Talking About Mental Health

We know from experience that an effective way to clear up misunderstandings is through open, honest, and direct communication. And when that communication occurs in a context of understanding, empathy, compassion, and love, it works best.

That’s how we, as a large, diverse, multicultural nation, can reduce stigma around mental health in general. It’s also the best way for members of minority communities to move forward. Sharing knowledge can debunk myths, increase access, and promote full and active participation in mental health treatment.

When members of a specific community share conversations with other members of that community they know and trust, they’re more likely to listen, learn, and act. This can help them address mental health issues they face themselves. It can also encourage other reluctant members of their community to seek mental health assessment, treatment, and support when they need it most.