In 2008 the U.S. House of Representatives proclaimed July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, honoring the late writer who took on the issue in her work, including a children’s book, “Sometimes Mommy Gets Angry,” a play, “Even With Madness,” and a novel, “72 Hour Hold.”

Campbell was thrust into the issue of mental health after a loved one was diagnosed with a mental illness and she hoped that her writing would not only help her loved one get help, but help other  people of color – particularly black Americans – recognize and get help.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), minorities are less likely to have mental illness diagnosed and treated, have less access to mental health services, tend to receive poorer care and are less likely to be represented in mental health research.

July was designated National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to focus on education, support and advocacy.

Besides a lack of access to care, many black Americans worry about how they will be perceived, treated by others and what impact it may have on their jobs if their issue becomes known or if treatment will be covered by their health care plans. Many of those who may not struggle personally with mental illness probably know someone who is. Left untreated, or undertreated, mental illness causes suffering not only for the individuals, but their families and communities as well.

The most common mental health issues include depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the National Mental Health Information Center.

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