Five ways to shift your perspective during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

IMAGE: NATIONAL ALLIANCE ON MENTAL ILLNESS

It took a long time for Chris Hubbard to realize that he needed help. As an offensive tackle in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns, Hubbard faced a punishing professional season and a travel schedule that kept him away from home for weeks at a time. What started as a manageable amount of stress eventually grew to become more serious anxiety and depression. Hubbard told himself to “just get over it.”

“I was like, ‘I’m a dude, I’m a man, I can deal with myself,’” Hubbard explains in a video from the National Alliance on Mental Illness. “But at the same time I was losing weight. I was 305 and in a month I went down to 275…from dealing with the stress and anxiety and going through the different roles and depression and stuff like that.”

Hubbard had to overcome his own internalized stigma about mental illness before he was able to eventually seek treatment and recover. Now he’s on a mission to model what mental health recovery can look like — especially to Black boys, teens, and young adults.

This type of work is at the center of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, which takes place in July every year. Youth from minority communities are disproportionately likely to suffer from adverse outcomes due to unmet mental health needs. This is not due to a higher incidence and severity of mental illness in minority communities. Rather it reflects that individuals in minority communities are less likely to receive a diagnosis and treatment for their mental illness, have reduced access to mental health services, and experience poorer quality of care. Even after controlling for factors like discrimination, violence, and poverty, ethnic minority communities still have a greater unmet mental health need than Caucasian communities.

The reasons for these disparities include a lack of culturally competent services, mistrust of health professionals, and immigration status concerns. However, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, stigma towards people with mental illness is the “most formidable obstacle to future progress in the arena of mental illness and health.” While stigma affects all people living with mental illness, studies show that culturally influenced stigma may have differential impacts on people in minority communities.
Shifting culture to overcome this stigma is something all of us can do every day. To show what that can look like and explore the nuances of this challenging work, we’ve rounded up five resources that can help you shift your own perspective on mental illness as well as the perspectives of people in your community.

  1. “Strength over Silence” video series. Chris Hubbard’s story is one of several in the National Alliance for Mental Health (NAMI)’s “Strength over Silence” video series. The series also talks with Lorenzo Lewis, founder of The Confess Project which helps start conversations and spread hope and healing in the black community; A.J. Mendez, an author, advocate and former WWE wrestler who talks about being bipolar as a Latinx American; and Jasmin Pierre, who created The Safe Place app, where the African American community can access culturally inspired information and support.
  2. Latinx Therapy — A podcast dedicated to “Demystifying the mental health stigma in the Latinx community through social media & our bilingual podcast.” Their website includes a directory of culturally competent therapists as well as resources specifically for mental health in the Latinx community.
  3. MannMukti — Created in 2017, MannMukti (which translates to “mental liberation” in Hindi) is a storytelling platform “that enables South Asians to normalize and discuss mental health issues. We emphasize sharing stories of mental illness to create a new narrative of compassion and acceptance. By highlighting the many different forms mental illness takes within our community, we hope to reduce the collectivist pressure to sweep these issues under the rug.” Check out their website for videos, a podcast, a resources list, newsletter, and Facebook-based online community.
  4. The Black Girl Healing Project — “As a black woman, it often feels as though we have to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders.” Black Girl Healing takes a comprehensive approach to modeling self-care and mental healing, including beautiful photos, writing, a podcast, and online community.
  5. Share your own story — One of the most powerful ways to destigmatize mental illness is to share your own story. Sharing a story about your personal experiences with mental health challenges can help in your own recovery as well as provide encouragement and support to others with similar experiences. Share poetry, song lyrics, inspirational quotes, drawings, photos, or any of the resources above that speak to you and explain why. You are not alone. Help others know that too.

Did we miss something on this list? Share your suggestions for resources, tips, and ideas that have helped your mental health journey in the comments or on Instagram at @bridgestothefuturemc.


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