Nonprofits working to strengthen mental healthUsher’s New Look; taken pre-COVID-19
By Felix Rodriguez, program associate, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
Formally recognized in June 2008 (and still currently recognized today), Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month – otherwise known as BIPOC Mental Health Awareness month – was established to bring awareness to the unique struggles that people of color and other underrepresented groups face in regard to mental illness in the United States.
The typical western and American medical model, known as allopathic medicine, relies on medication, radiation or surgery to treat the symptoms or effects of a disease. This approach as it relates to mental health has been helpful to establish mental health parity legislation, the development of evidence-based treatments and therapies for mental health conditions. However, this approach struggles to be culturally relevant or inclusive of the needs of historically marginalized communities, which is what led to the establishment of BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month – to highlight the need for resources to support our neighbors. It’s become clear that the toll on the physical, economic and mental health from the ongoing pandemic and social awakening has been disproportionately felt by communities of color. There have been glimmers of hope in those moments of crisis, whether it’s the demonstrated value of peer support groups, or the establishment of mutual aids, both of which the core value is shared responsibility and support of their fellow community member. This same value can be applied to mental health supports.
The Mental Health Coalition has compiled a list of resources to support the BIPOC community that can be found here. Additionally, we would like to highlight some of our partners and the work they are doing in this field:
Free Your Feels Campaign
Launched by Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and Voices for Georgia’s Children along with incredible partners, the Free Your Feels campaign helps Georgia’s children, teens and young adults stay mentally healthy by expressing their true feelings with peers, parents, teachers and most importantly, themselves. With free educational resources for different groups (youth, educators, and parents/caregivers), instant access to mental health professionals, and support for kids and families, they work to help Georgia’s youth voice their real feels and get the help they need, when they need it.
For BIPOC Mental Health Month, Free Your Feels has a created toolkit to highlight resources to support the mental health needs of BIPOC youth.
The Confess Project
The Confess Project is committed to building a culture of positive mental health for boys and men of color, without the barriers of stigma or shame. The Project focuses on creating linkages to services by educating and empowering members of the community with culturally relevant strategies and techniques to better serve boys, men of color, and their families in everyday environments. Here in Atlanta, The Confess Project has partnered with local barbershops to train barbers to serve as a first entry point to one, have frank conversations to break the stigma; and two, serve as the linkage to local services.
Silence the Shame
Silence the Shame’s mission is to empower and educate communities on mental health and awareness. Here in Atlanta, they offer free Mental Health First Aid Training for members of the community to attend, as well as host “Community Conversations,” curated panel discussions specific to the audience in attendance to create a safe environment to discuss mental health.
The Center for Victims of Torture
The mission of the Center is to heal the wounds of torture on individuals, their families and their communities and to end torture worldwide. Founded in Minnesota, CVT Georgia operates a healing center out of Clarkston, extended rehabilitative care to refugees and asylum seekers, incorporating specialized, culturally appropriate care that is most effective for individuals who have survived torture.
Usher’s New Look
Usher’s New Look works to develop youth leaders through talent, career exploration, and education preparation. Usher’s New Look recognized the need to equip the youth they serve with the necessary skills to cope with mental health stressors and erase the stigma of mental wellness. This took the form of the Disruptivator Summit in 2019, and in 2020 the summit again looked to provide youth with the tools and skills in the context of a pandemic and social unrest. In 2021 the Disruptivator Summit again focused on mental health.