Take time this July to learn about the intersection between mental health and the BIPOC (Black Indignious People of Color) community. Also consider others that face disproportionate inequities due to systemic barriers and historical adversity. According to Mental Health America, this month of awareness was “formally recognized in June 2008...and has been observed each July ... created to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the United States...”
What are ways we can foster learning about the BIPOC community and their need for mental health services/supports? Inspired by Mental Health America (MHA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA), here are ways you can be an ally to the BIPOC community as you navigate supporting us in the throes of systemic racism and adversity:
Read the ACA’s research about how “marginalized, oppressed, and disenfranchised people have unique concerns, trauma, stress, obstacles, and challenges because of historical experiences, cultural differences, and social disparities.”
Make yourself available to your BIPOC peers as a friend and ally by spending time with them and getting to know them like any other friend.
Learn about your BIPOC friends’ cultural experiences through your own research.
If invited to participate in a cultural event by a BIPOC friend, say yes and attend or make time on your own to visit a cultural event outside of your own experience.
Explore your neighborhood and support local businesses owned by BIPOC individuals.
When you see historical landmarks that include BIPOC individuals, do an online search to learn more about the history and culture of your neighborhood and how the BIPOC community influenced it.
Choose a people group to learn about over the month of July including their cultural experiences. How do they celebrate their cultural identity in your local community? How can their community be supported through volunteerism or financial giving.
Validate the stories of your BIPOC community through listening to them, spending time with them, and celebrating their ethnic/cultural identity.
Normalize the importance of therapy and support your BIPOC community in navigating access to mental health treatment as they navigate race-based experiences.
Lou Lim, LMHC, REAT is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.