Since 2008, July has been recognized as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States, designed to cast a light on the mental health disparities and resource challenges facing marginalized communities throughout the country. Lost&Found, alongside other national mental health organizations like Mental Health America, has begun calling July “BIPOC Mental Health Month” to recognize the real intent behind the month—a fairer portrayal of the mental health impacts on those who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color.
Why does this distinction matter?
Because our language validates the experiences of people whose identity may be different from our own.
Black and Native American mental health is affected by multi-generational traumas these communities have experienced and continue to experience. And yet, they are different and deserve distinction. People of Color is a broader term, but it encompasses the unique mental health experiences of non-White communities in our country, especially for new immigrants. Even if broad, focusing on “BIPOC” mental health gives us more precise language to discuss specifically how racism and systems of oppression in our country’s past and present has created trauma and has resulted in mental health conditions and illness.
Especially in South Dakota, it is absolutely imperative to consider the mental health resources needed to serve the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota sovereign nations within our state. Suicide disproportionately impacts Indian Country, especially young adults ages 14-35. The trauma and mental health needs of our Native American communities cannot be left “on mute,” and we need to recognize and act on opportunities to raise awareness, create partnership, and take action.
And yet, my friends, I will tell you: This still isn’t enough.
If 2020 has shown us anything, we have a long way to go toward building systems, policies, and programs that give every person in our country a fair chance at mental health. Today, I encourage you to think about what it means to be an ally and advocate for BIPOC mental health year-round. Please join Lost&Found in finding new ways to break down trauma, take action against racism, and elevate BIPOC voices.
A few things we’re doing right now be better allies:
- Engaging in new partnerships to support BIPOC & LGBTQ+ communities: Lost&Found is currently collaborating with a pair of institutions in South Dakota and Minnesota to expand programs in support of Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities. More details to come!
- Elevating BIPOC & LGBTQ+ identities through Voices of Resilience: Our Voices of Resilience program on Facebook Live highlights the stories of individuals in our communities and the ways they find resilience in their daily lives. Recently, Cameryn Friesz and Michaela Seiber highlighted how their respective identities have affected their mental health and the mental health of our community.
- Actively seeking additional BIPOC voices on our Board of Directors: 3 at-large positions on our Board of Directors are open, and we are actively seeking BIPOC voices to fill those roles to help us better understand and partner with organizations serving Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color in our community. If you are interested in serving on the board, please contact us.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable with the question of “am I doing enough?”, know that we are, too. We won’t always have it right, but it is the constant listening and effort that teaches and changes how we learn, grow, and adapt. We hope you’ll join us on the journey.