BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month was first formally recognized in June 2008 and was originally known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Bebe Moore Campbell was an author, teacher, and mental health advocate who dedicated much of her life to shedding light on the unique mental health struggles faced by underrepresented groups in the United States. Her memory is honored each year by organizations such as Mental Health America which strive to raise awareness, particularly in July, and provide mental health tools to BIPOC communities year-round.
In recent years, the acronym ‘POC’ has been popularized as a shorthand way to refer to People of Color, or non-white people. Following an uptick in racially motivated violence - perhaps most notably the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020 - the letters ‘B’ and ‘I’ were intentionally added to the acronym to highlight the experiences of Black and Indigenous people. The intention is to acknowledge that even within the umbrella of People of Color, racial and ethnic groups have nuanced experiences that should be acknowledged.
Although May is nationally designated as Mental Health Awareness Month, naming July as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month is important. Populations that are historically underserved and underrepresented have not had an equal voice in large-scale conversations as the United States has worked to better understand and address mental health concerns. It is essential to highlight the inherent privilege from which non-BIPOC people approach mental health, as well as to elevate BIPOC communities. Systemic racism and bigotry is prevalent in our society and yet has gone unchecked for many decades. Many studies have shown higher susceptibility to physical illness and mental health issues in Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities in the United States.
BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month is especially salient for us here at Edmonds Law Office of Civil Rights. Currently, our team is comprised entirely of women of color. We are a trauma-informed, client-centered law firm. We prioritize mental health year-round - for ourselves, our clients and our communities. As a Civil Rights law firm, we regularly help clients with discrimination and our clients’ intersectional identities are at the forefront of our work. Clients often come to us in trauma. The work of pursuing justice can be draining for all involved, so we encourage self care at all levels: individual, community, and systemic.
For those of us who hold marginalized identities, self care may need to go a little deeper than bubble baths or treating ourselves to a latte (both of which are also great options to show ourselves love). It is always okay to take a break, step back from any ‘teaching’ roles you may be in, and address any internal or external pain you may be feeling. Most importantly, it’s always encouraged to find joy - to unplug from distressing media, set down any tasks that can wait, and take time to insist upon your own happiness.
For a list of mental health resources from the American Counseling Association, see here.