The History and Importance of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month

The History and Importance of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month

July is officially designated as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month and its purpose is to highlight the struggles of the BIPOC not just with mental health, but with accessing treatment.


To do our part to raise awareness, we’ve put together a brief history of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month along with some stats that prove just how important it really is.


A History of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month


The purpose of the month is to raise awareness of the mental health problems experienced by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. In a society that refuses to properly come to terms with its systemic racism and sexism, shining light on these issues is more important than ever.


It was first formally recognized in 2008 as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. As its name implies, it’s named after Bebe Moore Campbell, a Black American author, journalist, and mental health advocate. Moore Campbell unfortunately died in 2006 at the age of 56 after suffering from brain cancer, meaning she never got to see the result of her efforts. Naming the month after her is a homage to the excellent work she did in highlighting the struggles of minority communities.


Of course, the main purpose is to show that mental health conditions don’t discriminate based on race. But, along with this, the awareness month aims to highlight the disparity between white and BIPOC people in accessing mental health services. BIPOC communities see higher incidence rates of mental health conditions. Much of this is due to economic disparities innate in the American system. Black adults below the poverty line are twice as likely to report mental health conditions compared to those with financial stability.


Along with economic factors, BIPOC communities have greater stigma attached to mental health conditions. This is unfortunate, considering People of Color are far more likely to face trauma and abuse within society. So, this is the point of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month. We must highlight issues associated with the higher incidence rates of mental health conditions within these communities. 


As part of the month, different groups arrange activities and talks. For example, Mental Health America adds a theme each year. In 2021, the theme is Strength in Communities and MHA is looking at community-driven support networks designed to compensate for the lack of access to medical services.


This, after all, is the main point of this awareness month. As we’ll discuss below, there’s a clear lack of access to mental health support, meaning BIPOC communities often have to come up with their own ways to treat and manage mental health conditions.


The Prevalence of Mental Health Conditions in BIPOC Communities


Many of the following stats probably won’t come as a shock to most. After all, anyone living in these communities will likely have seen these in action. But, to really highlight the importance of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, here are some figures.


Rates and Stigma of Mental Health Conditions


Official figures for the rate of mental health conditions within BIPOC communities vary. This is likely due to the lack of clear and consistent data, as it would show the problem is much worse than authorities want to believe.


A study by the US Office of Minority Health found that Black people are 10% more likely to experience mental health issues than white people. The same study found that suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black people aged 15 to 24.


A different study in the International Journal of Health Services found that Black people are 20% more likely to experience mental health complications. This figure sounds more accurate but still a bit low.


Unsurprisingly, women in BIPOC communities are more likely to have mental health complications than men. This is due to sexism and issues associated with domestic abuse, lack of access to reproductive healthcare, and more.


Even more unsurprisingly, queer youth in BIPOC communities experience high rates of depression and suicidality. Trans People of Color are the most likely group to turn towards sex work. This, in turn, increases their risk of abuse, mental health complications, drug addiction, and HIV/AIDS.


Then, there’s the issue of stigma. In one survey, 63% of Black respondents saw mental health conditions as a sign of personal weakness. This sense of personal shame has a big impact on a person’s ability and willingness to access treatment or to even address the issue with their family or friends.


Access to Medical Services


BIPOC people are less likely to access medical services for mental health treatment than white people. One reason is because of stigma, but another is the medical system itself.


11.5% of Black people in the USA had no form of health insurance in 2018. Considering BIPOC people are more likely to live below the poverty line, it’s no surprise that fewer people attempt treatment.


But, even when treatment is available, issues might not get solved. The American Psychiatric Association found that Black men are more likely to be misdiagnosed with schizophrenia than white people presenting the same symptoms. The same report found that Black men were also offered medication at lower rates than white people.


So, where does this disparity lead? Unfortunately, it often leads to suicide. Suicide rates among Black people aged 10-14 rose 233% between 1980 and 1995.


Indigenous communities see higher suicide rates than white communities. The overall death rate from suicide is 20% higher, in fact.




These figures show that BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month is vital. By removing the stigma from mental health conditions, we can hopefully begin to address them openly and reduce their prevalence in BIPOC communities.


So, this July, remember those who came before us and paved the way to where we are now. While nothing is perfect (or even that close), use this month to reflect on your communities and what you can do for those close to you.


And, of course, if you’re experiencing any kind of mental health condition, never be afraid to reach out. At IFHP Clothing Co., we believe in doing what it takes to get the necessary help, and we will be more than happy to assist you in any way possible.

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