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Written by Paget Hetherington
on July 14, 2020

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.

Educate Yourself
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:

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:

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.

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