July is a month of celebrations, from the American Independence Day to International Friendship Day. It is also Black, Indigenous and People Of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Month also known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Pronounced “bye-pock,” this is a term specific to the United States, intended to emphasize the experiences of Black and Indigenous groups and demonstrate solidarity between communities of color. Formally recognized in June 2008, July has served to promote and spread awareness about unique struggles and mental health issues faced by the underrepresented BIPOC communities in the US.
The BIPOC communities experience a broad spectrum of ongoing discrimination, oppression, and inequity rooted in America’s colonialist history, all of which foster both collective and individual mental trauma in those communities. As such July acts as a month to signify and validate the experiences of the BIPOC communities through the means of channeling resources to improve mental health, addressing the systemic discrepancies in quality of and access to care for these individuals and work together to create deep multicultural competence and provide effective care for the mental health of every individual. These measures manifest in many forms like virtual counselling sessions, webinars and live candid conversations on such matters by professionals and representatives, including activists and celebrities.
Throughout July, social media is also used as a powerful tool to aid in promoting awareness and making calls for action regarding various issues like workplace diversity. In addition, public education campaigns are dedicated to addressing the mental health needs of BIPOC communities to educate both BIPOC and their non-BIPOC counterparts. Moreover, July serves to uplift and extend support to BIPOC-led organisations and mutual aid initiatives as well as amplify voices of the BIPOC community.
This year’s theme for BIPOC Mental Health Month is Strength in Communities. It serves to highlight alternative mental health supports created by BIPOC as well as queer and trans BIPOC (QTBIPOC), for BIPOC and QTBIPOC communities. The 2021 toolkit examines community-developed systems of support created to fill the gaps within traditional systems that overlook cultural and historical factors which impede BIPOC and QTBIPOC mental health. It also aims to explore three topic areas - community care, self-directed care, and cultural care. Overall, it brings attention to the purpose of these types of care and their importance while valuing the choices that BIPOC communities make for their mental health.
Community care refers to ways in which BIPOC communities have supported each other through means of mutual aid, peer support, and healing circles. Self-directed care is an innovative practice which emphasizes the decision-making authority that BIPOC members, with mental health and substance use conditions, have over the services they receive. Cultural care refers to practices that are embedded in cultures and passed down through generations to naturally provide resiliency and healing.
However, it is important to keep in mind that BIPOC Mental Health Month is not exclusive to BIPOC members. The society and community, regardless of whether they belong to the BIPOC community, can also play their part and make their valuable contributions. It can start from joining and volunteering at BIPOC-catering organisations, mutual aids and conferences. With thoroughly done research from credible sources, posts can be made on social media to promote BIPOC mental health statistics and stories, infographics and factoids. For the tech-savvy, these posts can reach a larger audience through the use of relevant hashtags like #BIPOCMentalHealthAwareness, #BIPOCMentalHealthAwarenessMonth, #DoNotDiscriminateMentalHealthConditions and #BreakTheStigma.
More than anything, it is immensely crucial to not let these actions be merely performative by only honouring the BIPOC Mental Health during July. We should keep the momentum going all year round, as the underrepresentation of BIPOC Mental Health and struggles are a continual battle.