July is celebrated as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. A tradition that began in 2008 to bring awareness and focus to the obstacles and struggles that minorities face in caring for their mental health and in honor and remembrance of a phenomenal woman, Bebe Moore Campbell.
Born in Pennylvania on February 19, 1950, Bebe spent the summers of her youth in North Carolina, following the divorce of her parents. Growing up in the two drastically different northern and southern states during the 50’s and 60’s, she witnessed the impact of racial segregation in our nation.
She was the only African American in her dorm at the University of Pittsburgh, where she pursued her degree in Elementary Education. These experiences helped to shape her perspective and they fuel inspiration for her career as an author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate.
Bebe Campbell was a stalwart visionary for mental health advocacy, awareness, and education. She revealed to many that the system was fractured at its core, and she stopped at nothing to make others aware of the overbearing obstacles within the mental health world.
She was also very open about her personal experiences of mental illness within her family and teamed with up her friend Linda Wharton-Boyd to create the dedicated month for minority mental health awareness.
“Once my loved ones accepted the diagnosis, healing began for the entire family, but it took too long. It took years. Can’t we, as a nation, begin to speed up that process? We need a national campaign to destigmatize mental illness, especially one targeted toward African Americans…It’s not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible.”Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005
When she and her friend Linda set out in 2005 to make a month-long observance, the official title was National Minority Mental Health Month. Sadly, Bebe had to step down from this work when she became sick. Following a battle with brain cancer, Bebe passed away in 2006.
It was after she passed that others joined with Linda, inspired by the work Bebe had done throughout her life and her passion to make this month-long observance a reality. Those who stood by Bebe and believed in what she wanted to see accomplished admirably felt it appropriate to name the month after her. Linda carried on Bebe’s campaign along with friends, family, and other advocates, and on June 2, 2008, Congress formally recognized July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Albert Wynn [D-MD] and cosponsored by a large bipartisan group to achieve two goals:
1) Improve access to mental health treatment and services and promote public awareness of mental illness.
2) Name a month as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities.
“Honoring Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is integral to preserving the history of mental health advocacy for communities of color. Campbell is truly the ‘Mother of the Movement’ and inspired equitable access to care, culturally competent treatment and compassionate services. This posthumous recognition is a landmark achievement for all mental health advocates. We must continue to erase the stigma of mental illness and not Bebe Moore Campbell’s name.”
– Courtney Lang, JD
Director, Mental Health America’s Committee on Anti-Racsim, Equity and Social Justice
Founder and Principal, Langco + Partners
Campbell’s written work carries her legacy beyond the month of observation. Her New York Times bestselling novel “72 Hour Hold,” detailed the struggle of mothers and fathers who fight against an unjust mental health system. The book chronicles events experienced by fictional characters, but those characters are inspired by the real-life warriors of parents who were willing to confront the perilous forces that prioritize white privilege. Touched by stories of empowerment, individuals with mental illness and their parents, advocates, and caregivers recognized they were not alone.
Through the reading and sharing of her work, we are reminded of the comfort that Bebe brought to so many and are inspired to continue her legacy of education, awareness and advocacy to our immediate communities. It is our collective duty to honor Bebe Moore Campbell, her name and history, not just within the month of July but in our every day.
To learn more about Bebe Moore Campbell, her life and her legacy please visit the links below:
- Learn About Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month
- New York Times 2006
- A Pioneer Of Equitable Mental Health: Honoring Bebe Moore Campbell
- The History Makers
- Listen or read – NPR
Literary Work Of Bebe Moore Campbell
- Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine (1992)
- Brothers and Sisters (1994)
- Singing in the Comeback Choir (1998)
- What You Owe Me (2001)
- 72 Hour Hold (2005)
- Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry (2003)
- Stompin’ at the Savoy (2006)
- Successful Women, Angry Men: Backlash in the Two-Career Marriage (1986)
- Sweet Summer: Growing Up With and Without My Dad (1989)
Selected Articles And Essays
- “Staying in the Community” (1989)
- “Daddy’s Girl” (1992)
- “Remember the 60’s?” (1992)
- “Brothers and Sisters” (1993)
- “I Felt Rage — Then Fear” (1993)
- “Only Men Can Prevent Spousal Abuse” (1994)
- “Coming Together: Can We See Beyond the Color of Our Skin?” (1995)
- “The Boy in the River” (1999)
- “Poor Health of African Americans” (2000)