"Once my loved one accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can't we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans. The message must go on billboards and in radio and TV public service announcements. It must be preached from pulpits and discussed in community forums. It's not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible." --Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005
About Bebe Moore Campbell and the Month
Bebe Moore Campbell was an accomplished author, advocate, co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles and national spokesperson, who passed away in November 2006.
She received NAMI's 2003 Outstanding Media Award for Literature for the book Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, written especially for children, about a young girl who learns how to cope with her mother's bipolar illness. In 2005, her novel 72-Hour Hold focused on an adult daughter and a family's experience with the onset of mental illness. It helped educate Americans that the struggle often is not just with the illness, but with the healthcare system as well Campbell advocated for mental health education and support among individuals of diverse communities.
In 2005, the idea for a minority mental health awareness month came out of a conversation Campbell had with longtime friend Linda Wharton-Boyd. Campbell’s book, 72-Hour Hold, was about to be released and Wharton-Boyd was organizing book parties. Inspired by Campbell’s charge to eliminate stigma and provide mental health information, Wharton-Boyd suggested dedicating a month to the effort. When Campbell reacted with, “You can’t just do that,” Wharton-Boyd responded, “Claim it!” And together they did.
The duo got to work, outlining the concept of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and what it would entail. With the support of the D.C. Department of Mental Health and then-mayor, Anthony Williams, they held a news conference in Southeast D.C., where they encouraged residents to get mental health checkups. Support continued to build as Campbell and Wharton-Boyd held book signings, spoke in churches and created a National Minority Mental Health Taskforce of Friends and allies.
However, the effort came to a halt when Campbell became too ill to continue. When Campbell lost her battle to cancer, Wharton-Boyd and a cadre of friends, family and ally advocates reignited their cause, fueled by the passion to honor the life of an extraordinary woman.
The taskforce members researched and obtained the support of Representatives Albert Wyn (D-MD) and Diane Watson (D-CA), who co-signed legislation to create and official minority mental health awareness month.
In May 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives proclaimed July as BeBe Moore Campbell National Minority Health Awareness Month!
The resolution sponsored by Rep. Albert Wynn and co-sponsored by a large bi-partisan group was passed in recognition that: "Improved access to mental health treatment and services and public awareness of mental illness are of paramount importance; and
An appropriate month should be recognized as BeBe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities.
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