eNewsletter - Jul 2022
Building a mental health foundation during BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month
By: Liara Tillman, LCSW
Over the years, conversations about mental health and the various stigmas surrounding it, have begun to be shown in a more positive light. From powerful executives to professional athletes, prominent individuals are boosting the call for mental health awareness and support.
As a clinical therapist, I’m often concerned by the differences between how people who live with mental health issues, and those who don’t, regard their suffering. While it is well recognized that mental illness is a common, chronic condition which affects more than one in four people globally and needs urgent attention, there is still a stigma and inequality associated with it, especially with people of color (POC).
On June 2, 2008, a bipartisan Congress, federally recognized and established July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month—also known as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month (the acronym standing for black, indigenous, and people of color).
Let's learn more about our mental health and how to take action with the 4 O's: Opposition, Optimism, Options, and Opportunities.
What do you do when the people around you make you feel guilty about your mental health? Or when your family thinks you’re doing too well and don’t need any help? How do you resist the pressure to keep everything under wraps?
It’s a question many of us face at some point in our lives.
The first thing to understand is that you are not alone. Your partner, family, and friends care about you and want to support you. They want to know how to help you — but oftentimes they don’t know how.
They don’t know how to help because they’ve never felt this way themselves.
Living with a mental health condition often impacts relationships, careers, and daily activities. In fact the most effective treatments, for the vast majority, are therapy, having a good support system, and medication if needed.
Small steps can aid in getting comfortable with managing mental health for those who are not familiar with the pathways. There are methods that can help with emotional well-being, including cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and mindfulness techniques. A growing number of studies are showing the positive effects on emotional and mental wellbeing, as the latter is becoming increasingly popular among practitioners.
So how do you practice? Here are a few suggestions:
- Breathing techniques
- Mindfulness exercises or prayer (if you have a religious or spiritual relationship)
- Meditation and physical activity
I encourage you to start exploring one method at a time to see what works for you.
As a Black-Brazilian woman, my journey to wellness started with the simple act of prioritizing my mental health. My first step was to talk to a therapist. As I became more comfortable with talking to someone about what was going on, I began to realize that I needed to start taking care of myself more. By doing this, I could begin to live the life that I wanted and feel the sense of satisfaction that comes with living well. While I didn’t think I had more to learn about my mental health, I found myself learning so much more than I had anticipated.
For some of my clients, pursing hospital-based treatment including PHP (partial hospitalization program) or IOP (intensive outpatient program) made a difference. These group therapy programs focus on teaching participants how to deal with stress and other mental health symptoms in a healthy way, with the overall goal of improving one’s mental health. Through these group therapy sessions, clients learn how to approach their stressors, while also learning about how to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors differently.
The value of therapy, coping skills, and medication (if applicable), can be vital to managing mental health, even though it can be intimidating or stigmatizing.
Throughout your journey, remember that advocating for yourself is vital. It's crucial to share your needs and desires with your providers and support system. If you want to work with people of similar identities, ask for providers who are culturally competent and have experience working with or are open to diverse populations. Make sure you ask your provider to document everything discussed to ensure your needs and concerns are heard. Don't be afraid to seek combinations of care that are right for you.
In healthcare, one size does not fit all. Don't be ashamed of your symptoms or avoid seeking help because of the stigma associated with mental health treatment. Be open to exploring alternative treatment options.
There are several ways for BIPOC to learn how to manage their mental health. For instance, there are self-care guides, books, podcasts, support groups and even workshops to join.
Many individuals within these communities are unaware of the variety of ways they can be supported as it relates to mental health. Below are a few additional resources:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
- The Mental Health Coalition Resource Library - The Mental Health Coalition
- Mental Health America BIPOC Mental Health Month | Mental Health America (mhanational.org)
Understanding Racial Trauma and its Impact on Minority Mental Health
By: Kim Reyes, LSW
Each year during the month of July, Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month—also known as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month (the acronym standing for black, indigenous, and people of color) is observed to help increase awareness and support for the unique mental health issues ethnic and cultural minority communities face. While there are many contributors to minority mental health concerns, researchers believe race or ethnicity-based trauma can lead to severe psychological and physical effects. The continued occurrence of systemic racism and related trauma in the United States leaves minority populations at high risk for mental health issues.
According to Mental Health America (MHA) Race-based trauma or race-based traumatic stress (RBTS) refers to the emotional and mental injuries that result from continued exposure to racism, ethnic discrimination, racial bias, and hate crimes. While any minority population is at risk, any individual who experiences emotional stress from a racial encounter may experience racial trauma. Several types of race-based trauma and stress exist:
- Individual Racism: Racial trauma that occurs between people and involves beliefs, attitudes, and actions that support or perpetuate racism is individual racism. Individual racism can be unconscious, conscious, active, and passive. Examples include the belief in white supremacy or the behavior of crossing the street to avoid someone of a particular race.
- Systemic Racism: Racism that exists across a society within, and between institutions/organizations across society is systemic racism. Examples include inequitable access to healthcare, housing discrimination, and racial profiling.
- Direct Traumatic Stressors: Direct traumatic stressors include all direct traumatic impacts of living within a society of structural racism or being on the receiving end of individual racist attacks or microaggressions. Examples include direct experiences of racial physical or verbal attacks or being the target of inequitable policies.
- Vicarious Traumatic Stressors: Vicarious traumatic stressors are the indirect traumatic impacts of living with systemic racism and individual racist actions. Examples include viewing a depiction of or witnessing a racist event or attack.
- Transmitted Stressors: Transmitted traumatic stressors refer to stressors transferred from one generation to the next. They can be historical in nature such as systemic racism or personal trauma passed down through families or communities.
What we can do. Awareness of the types of racial trauma that exists and the potential long-term impact they can have is crucial. Access to culturally competent mental health care and resources, decreased stigma related to mental health in all populations, and most simply, a focus on kindness at home, in the workplace, and in our institutions, will go a long way to helping those who need care.
As we wrap up National Minority Mental Health month this July, Linden Oaks will continue to work within and outside our walls to remove barriers to care and stigma for all who suffer. We are committed to addressing health disparities and providing resources to members of the diverse communities who need it.
Finding more support. Linden Oaks can discuss available options at any level of behavioral health care (from the acute to chronically ill). If you know someone who would benefit
from talking with someone about their treatment options related to racial trauma or other concerns, encourage them to contact our 24/7 Help Line at 630-305-5027 or complete our Assessment Request Form and one of our staff will contact them to assist.