By Corrine Ruth, NAMI Policy Intern
In honor of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, individuals and organizations across the nation are speaking out about the need for increased attention to mental health and improved access to mental health services for diverse populations.
To Cecelia Williams, stigma is one of the most prevalent challenges she has faced in her role as NAMI Sharing Hope coordinator in southeast Texas. But she also knows that transforming the conversation requires a relentless commitment to “educate people about mental illness, treatment options and research.”
An Engaged Community is an Active Community
Building trust within diverse communities takes time and consistency, especially when it comes to increasing awareness about mental health. Education programs that acknowledge and reflect the diversity and values of a community appear to be effective forms of engagement.
That is why National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is so important to Cecelia and many other leaders across the country. Gloria Walker, president of NAMI Urban Greater Cincinnati Network on Mental Illness has thought strategically about her Affiliate’s July community event because “it gets the word out to an underserved community of people with very little, if any, knowledge of mental illness and recovery and gets them talking about it.”
The Celebration is in Full Swing!
Community events, campaigns and initiatives help us bring widespread attention to the mental health needs of minority groups. These events create a setting for individuals to discuss important issues and allow advocates to connect with local leaders and communities. Through music, art, food, speeches, presentations, book discussions and film screenings, we are sharing the message that mental illness impacts people of all backgrounds and that people of all communities need access to mental health care and treatment.
Cecelia partnered with local community organizations to sponsor a suicide prevention presentation on July 12 as part of a wellness series. Gloria planned a reception featuring a keynote speaker from the American Psychiatric Association Office of Minority and National Affairs, a breakfast panel and two breakout sessions to capture tangible plans of action on minority mental health advancement.
“Developing the relationships formed through the process of putting on this event is a must,” said Gloria. Beyond the personal satisfaction, NMMHAM has allowed me and my Affiliate to increase our network of contacts.”
Here is a list of some of the great things other NAMI Affiliates are doing:
- NAMI of Greater Toledo is sharing information about mental health and NAMI programs at a local minority health fair – and they’re doing it in style by bringing the NAMI Ohio mobile mental health bus!
- NAMI Prince George’s County held a mental health forum at a local church that focused on mental illness and stigma in the African American community. Participants shared what it was like to experience mental illness and audience members were allowed to engage in productive discussion about the specific mental health challenges faced by minorities.
- NAMI Cumberland Harnett and Lee Counties is hosting a discussion of the book, The Secret She Kept by Rhonda Tate Billingsley, which focuses on mental illness in African American family.
- NAMI Wisconsin has held a series of culturally diverse music events in local parks and public spaces. They’ve worked to share information about mental illness and distribute NAMI materials at each concert.
- NAMI Santa Clara County has planned a “Food Fun Dance Education Day” that features Asian and Latino dance and food presentations along with wellness instruction.
The list of NAMI NMMHAM events goes on. And there’s still room for you to get involved! We encourage you to reach out to your local NAMI to see if there are any events in your area that you can participate in.
Here are some ideas of what you can do to keep the momentum on minority mental health going:
· Like us on Facebook
· Tweet using #MinorityMentalHealth