Mental Health Equity for BIPOC Communities: Helpful Primers from Mental Health America
October 14, 2022

Last month, participants of the Adolescent & Young Adult Behavioral Health Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network attended a virtual learning session focused on strategies for promoting mental health equity in Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities. Allissa Torres (she/her/ella), Director of Mental Health Equity at Mental Health America (MHA), was our guest speaker.

Allissa shared the history of BIPOC Mental Health Month, which is observed yearly in July and was created by Bebe Moore Campbell to bring awareness to the unique challenges experienced by BIPOC individuals with mental illness in the United States. MHA develops and releases a new toolkit every year to commemorate and support the goals of the observance. While each toolkit features a different theme, they all share critical information on understanding and supporting the unique needs of BIPOC individuals with mental illness. Each toolkit concludes with calls to action that each of us can take to support mental health equity, whether it be in your life as an adolescent health professional or in your personal life as a community member.

Throughout the remainder of the learning session, Allissa gave us the highlights of the 2021 and 2022 BIPOC Mental Health Month toolkits:

2021 Toolkit: Strength in Communities

“Our 2021 toolkit will examine community-developed systems of support created to fill gaps within mainstream healthcare systems. These systems may overlook cultural and historical factors that impede BIPOC and Queer and Trans BIPOC mental health. The toolkit will explore three topic areas: community care, self-directed care, and culturally-based practices.”

2022 Toolkit: Beyond the Numbers (available in English and Spanish)

“We know that numbers are important. They give us a snapshot of the bigger picture. Statistics and data give us the ability to understand key connections that help us to make informed decisions. But, numbers don’t tell the whole story, instead only giving us a broad view that misses the deeper and individual context. For BIPOC communities, we also know that numbers focus much too often on disparities rather than strengths and resilience. Just as every person is unique, so is every culture. This year’s theme for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), Mental Health Month is #BeyondTheNumbers. Join us, and together we will gain knowledge of historical context, systems of support, and actionable ways to move forward toward a mentally healthy future.”

The resources above can serve as a helpful primer for Title V MCH staff looking to advance mental health equity across the populations they serve, including adolescent and young adults. MHA also has an affiliate network across the United States that Title V MCH programs can consider partnering with to increase capacity in this space. Find your network affiliate.


The learning session was recorded and is available for viewing.


Quote by Bebe Moore Campbell surrounded by faces of people from difference racial, ethnic, gender, and religious backgrounds. Quote reads: While everyone- all colors- everyone is affected by stigma, no one wants to say, "I'm not in control of my mind." No one wants to say, "The person I love is not in control of [their mind." But people of color really don't want to say it because we already feel stigmatized by virtue of skin color or eye shape or accent and we don't want any more reasons for anyone to say, "You're not enough."