National Minority Mental Health Month Article for Columbus African American News Journal - July 2022
July is National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, annually observed to bring focus to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority communities face related to mental Illness in our country.
At the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County (ADAMH), we work to ensure that everyone in Franklin County has access to equitable, affordable mental health and addiction services. We do that by funding an entire continuum of services through more than 30 caring, community providers.
The diversity of our community is evolving. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to behavioral health services and evidence-based models of prevention, treatment and recovery services. As the needs of our minority communities in Franklin County grow, so does the demand for culturally relevant pathways to building resilience.
Resilience is that internal capacity to acknowledge our own strengths; a self-awareness anchored in courage despite our individual and generational lived experiences. Those who experience life as a person of color in America have yet to escape the complexities of racism, inequality, trauma and the cultural stigma in mental healthcare that often result in healthcare discrimination, misdiagnosis and being undertreated.
Considering the ongoing challenges faced by minority communities, we remain resilient. Along centuries old paths of overcoming, we can choose transformational resilience. A mindset that moves us forward on the trajectory of life, so that we end better than where we began. The transformational work has begun in many diverse communities. It’s seen in how we create and develop unique footprints in the world through the work of minority owned, led, and serving community organizations that are equitably funded—further positioning all communities for success.
Teaching transformational resilience in young people
An important way that racially and ethnically diverse communities can promote transformational resilience in young people is by connecting with them early in their development in ways that encourage positive life experiences, environments and relationships. These important connections are successfully happening through ADAMH-funded programs in Franklin County.
- Founded in 2010 and engaging in the Black Girl Think Tank (BGTT) series since 2015, Black Girl Rising Inc., models transformational resilience with Black girls in Franklin County. The BGTT is a research-based program designed as a space for girls to dialogue about their quality of life issues and affect socioemotional and social justice change in their communities. The program teaches critical thinking, how to communicate across barriers, and building community. An example of a BGTT outcome is the “I Am Good Enough” campaign that addresses identified issues such as mental health, bullying, colorism, body-image, self-defense, and LGBTQ+ needs. (https://blackgirlrising.net/a-think-tank-for-black-girls/)
- ADAMH funds prevention initiatives in neighborhoods throughout Franklin County including more than 20 summer day camps where young people learn about the risks of substance use while working together and learning social-emotional skills necessary in developing friendships and maintaining relationships. Additional prevention initiatives include youth-led programs where young people have a voice in developing and delivering prevention programming to their peers. Several of the summer camps engage high school and college students, many who live in the same communities, to work as interns and peer helpers. Learn more about youth-led initiatives in Franklin County. (https://franklincountyylp.org/)
Meeting people where they are
Because many individuals and families in racial and ethnic minority communities are less likely to seek behavioral healthcare, ensuring access to culturally and linguistically appropriate services is critical. Access can start with a trusted family member or friend who shares about learned resources, to someone engaging directly with a community-based behavioral health provider.
- Through a partnership with Community for New Direction and the Kappa Columbus Foundation, the Community Connector Initiative recruits community health workers from minority neighborhoods to connect their neighbors with appropriate treatment and resources. The goal of the Community Connector Initiative is to support individuals and families affected by addiction with outreach, education and referrals to appropriate community-based services. (http://kappacolumbusalumni.com/programs_foundation.html)
- The Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Service (ETSS) Community Navigator Program conducts outreach to immigrant and refugee populations and connects them with a family care manager and bilingual advocate to assess their needs, including mental health needs. The bilingual advocates continue to provide workshops throughout the year as well as provide linkages to safe shelter, immigration attorneys, doctors and support groups. (https://ethiotss.org/)
Educating and supporting the helpers
Building a more diverse behavioral health workforce that reflects the communities we serve is a priority for ADAMH and our provider network. To accompany that work, ADAMH and our partners in Franklin County are working to provide culturally responsive professional development trainings to the existing workforce and offering support to the compassionate professionals working to make a difference in their community.
- ADAMH partners with The Ohio State University College of Social Work to provide cultural competency professional development for staff who work in the ADAMH network and students/faculty within the College of Social Work. This endeavor furthers best practices in working with culturally diverse communities focused on providing an increase in scholarly aptitude and direct clinical skill development for working with diverse clients and culturally relevant organizational change.
- The Black Community Ambassador Support Program offers safe, supportive spaces for helpers to connect, step back from giving, and receive support. It was developed by the same individuals the program is designed to help–African American helping professionals (counselors, social workers, youth workers, teachers, community advocates, health and human services workers, etc.) (https://blackcommunityambassadors.com/)
Resilience is not an innate trait. Resilience is our human capacity to overcome in the face of adversity. How we cultivate our own resilience speaks to our awareness that we know we are capable. One of the most difficult challenges in minority communities relative to mental health is the ability to both recognize and ask for help. Transformational resilience is embedded in the ask and is essential to quality overall mental health; we are going forward with the faith that the end will be better than where we started, in the ask.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing a mental health or addiction crisis, call Netcare at 614.276.CARE (2273) for adults or Nationwide Children’s Hospital at 614.722.1800 for youth (17 and under).
Ameena “Dr. K.” Kemavor, Ph.D., L.P.C.C.-S., is Vice President of Advocacy and Engagement for the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Board of Franklin County (ADAMH). ADAMH offers life-changing possibilities to individuals and families living with mental health or addiction issues. ADAMH, a levy-funded county agency, partners with more than 30 nonprofit agencies located in communities throughout the county to provide accessible and affordable behavioral health services. Learn more at adamhfranklin.org.