Our summer is in full swing with many of us taking a long-awaited vacation, weekends away, or a concert in the park. Finding ways to “get back to normal.” We crave this normalcy, the desire to settle back in, put the pandemic behind us, and move on. I feel it too.
While we strive to move on, we know that many in our community are struggling, the pandemic has had a lasting impact on our mental health. In fact, 38% of Coloradoans have reported a decline in their mental health last year, perhaps the most significant health crisis to follow the pandemic. Young adults are struggling the most, with more than half of people ages 19 to 29 sharing that their mental health declined during the pandemic (CHI, 2021 Colorado Health Access Survey).
Still the challenges brought on or exacerbated by the pandemic have produced a heavier burden on communities of color. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, people of color faced longstanding disparities in health care and long history of mistreatment by our healthcare system.
The pandemic has exacerbated these inequities leading to less access and poorer outcomes. A national study reports that over 2.5 million youth in the U.S. have severe depression and that multiracial youth are at the greatest risk. In the U.S., nearly 14.5% of youth who identify as more than one race have severe major depression, more than one in every seven multiracial youth. (MHA, 2022 State of Mental Health in America).
At Jefferson Center, we turn our focus inward and how we can break down barriers and create systems that promote safety and trust, and better meet the needs of our community. Together with our community partners, we advocate for accessibility and equitable health outcomes. In July, we join in recognizing BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month and highlight the mental health needs and experiences of historically disenfranchised racial and ethnic groups across our community.
Officially known as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Month, Bebe Moore Campbell was an author, teacher, mental health advocate, and co-founder of NAMI Inglewood (National Alliance on Mental Illness). She reasoned that, while there is a stigma around mental health care for everyone, and no one wants to admit that they are not “in control” of their mind, people of color are especially impacted by this because they already feel stigmatized by societal racism and systemic prejudice in the health care system.
This year, Mental Health America is adopting the theme #BeyondTheNumbers to highlight the historical context, systems of support, and actionable ways we can progress toward a more equitable future. You can download their toolkit through this link: BIPOC Mental Health Month | Mental Health America (mhanational.org)
Throughout July, Jefferson Center will share resources throughout BIPOC Mental Health Month.
While you continue to enjoy these summer months and make memories with your loved ones, as mental health advocates, I also encourage you to explore and spread awareness about BIPOC Mental Health Month. Reflect upon the advancements we have made as well as the work there is still to do to celebrate diversity and ensure equity for all.
– Kiara Kuenzler, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, President and CEO