Bebe Moore Campbell was a bestselling author despite and perhaps because of recurrent depression, who sadly passed away from brain cancer in 2006. She was a tireless mental health advocate in her community and through her writing. Her accomplishments include the novel 72 Hour Hold, the play Even With the Madness, and the award-winning children’s book Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, about a young girl whose mother has bipolar disorder. She was very active with NAMI, as well.
In recognition of her advocacy the US House of Representatives has proclaimed Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This July, the goals are to improve access to treatment and services, plus enhance awareness of mental health and mental illness among racial minority groups.
I Get So Hungry, Bebe’s last children’s book just recently published, is about the psychology of eating. It’s coping with childhood obesity from the perspective of a young black girl. We’re all aware of rising levels of child obesity (not limited to any minority group) and her book tries to deal with it straight on. According to research, African American girls’ eating habits are influenced by their peers and time constraints, more than celebrity role models or concern over nutrition. I Get So Hungry addresses those things.
Now here I am, a pale white woman trying to communicate issues for “minorities” (totally relative to where you live in the world, and this blog is worldwide). Fortunately, Bebe had a well-developed voice, as a woman of African American descent. She said what she wanted to say herself and the best I can do here is point you to her books. Read them free from your library.
According to her Wikipedia page (but with a citation needed) Bebe’s favourite quote was, “Discipline is the servant of inspiration.” She was a prolific writer and that ethic is important to writing. It’s wonderful that her words survive to honour her own dedication.
Sometimes a barrier to mental health care is language, since treatment needs talk and rapport. Sometimes it’s subcultural stigma, or there may be fear of racism. Cross Cultural Mental Health from Visions features many perspectives on these issues and more.
Finally, a message from the Surgeon General from an exhaustive 2001 report on minority mental health. Acknowledging that people in minority groups are less likely to seek professional mental health care, they write:
Individuals are encouraged to seek help from any source in which they have confidence. If they do not improve with the help received from the first source, they are encouraged to keep trying. At present, members of minority groups may experience limited availability of, and access to, culturally sensitive treatments. With time, access to these services should improve as a result of awareness of this problem and the courses of action identified in this Supplement. In the meantime, anyone who needs help must hear a simple, yet resounding, message of hope: Treatment works and recovery is possible.
That’s a message for everyone, the minorities who make majorities.
Cultural Attitudes Toward Weight, Diet, and Physical Activity Among Overweight African American Girls, Boyington et al., Preventing Chronic Disease, 2008 Apr;5(2):A36.
Cross Cultural Mental Health: Winter 2000, Visions, No. 9
Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity, A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General (2001), Dept. of Health & Human Services, U.S. Public Health Service. [free PDF].