Mental health concerns affect up to 20% of children in the United States. While mental health issues occur at similar frequencies across different races and demographics, disparities exist in regard to mental health support among Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ+) communities.
July is BIPOC and LGBTQ+ Mental Health Month, formerly known as Bebe Moore Campbell Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. This month of awareness was established in 2008 to bring light to the experiences of people of color and LGBTQ+ people who are faced with the challenges of mental illness.
Positive mental health is essential to positive physical health, which in turn affects students’ ability to function and learn on a daily basis. Supporting students of color and LGBTQ+ students is key to maintaining their well-being and positive mental health. However, less than half of Black students feel they have adequate mental health support in their schools.
With this in mind, it’s important to consider the ways educators, counselors, parents, and classmates can support students of color facing mental health struggles.
Supporting the mental health of students of color begins with learning about BIPOC history and lived experience, seeking out educational materials, and listening to and amplifying BIPOC voices. Here are some good books for educators to read about BIPOC, racism, and white supremacy:
- “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.
- Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
- Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We're Not Hurting by Terrie M. Williams
Support Students’ Emotional Trauma
One of the largest contributing factors to BIPOC mental health issues is the trauma that students of color face on a daily basis. Between overt racism and bigotry, students of color are constantly marginalized by those in power no matter how old they are. Here are some subtle traumas that students of color experience every day:
- People avoiding BIPOC in public out of fear and ignorance
- Disproportionate banking and credit acceptances and interest rates
- Mass incarceration of their peers and communities
- School curricula that fails to represent entire races and their contributions to American history
In order to support BIPOC students who experience both subtle and deep racial trauma on a regular basis, one of the most valuable steps is to practice and preach being anti-racist.
Reach Out With Resources
It’s not always possible to directly find solutions and provide support for specific issues that students of color face, but it is possible to connect students with resources that can help guide them in the right direction. Helping BIPOC students build an awareness of what positive mental health looks like while removing the stigma associated with mental illness can empower students to take important steps in working toward their own mental well-being. Here are some resources to get started:
- Black Emotional and Mental Health (BEAM) Collective: An organization dedicated to the mental health and healing of Black communities
- The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation: Eradicating the stigma around mental health issues in the Black community
- One Sky Center: The American Indian/Alaska Native National Resource Center for Health, Education, and Research
- Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum: Focused on improving the health and well-being of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders living in the U.S. and its jurisdictions
- Therapy for Latinx: Working with licensed therapists across the country, Therapy for Latinx provides resources for the Latinx community to heal, thrive, and become advocates for their own mental health
While these important actions are only the beginning of supporting BIPOC students’ mental health, they are crucial steps to validating the struggles that these students face every day. By taking the time to educate yourself, support students’ emotions, and consistently reach out to students with resources and encouragement, you can greatly improve the positive mental health of BIPOC students in your school.