Sex & Sex Education  Mental Health 

Meet the face behind Minority Mental Health Month: Bebe Moore Campbelle

Chetana Chaudhury Jul 07

Meet the face behind Minority Mental Health Month: Bebe Moore Campbelle

So who is behind the establishment of Minority Mental Health Awareness Month?

Bebe Moore Campbell (February 18, 1950 – November 27, 2006) was an American author, journalist and teacher. Digging deep into a little research on her fills me with a sense of pride! 

Reading about her struggle to start a revolutionary change to enlighten the path of people oppressed under racism gives a vibe of fresh air flowing, full of serenity across a land full of misogyny and discrimination. 

Are you excited to know her journey? 

Fighting back through all odds like a warrior, her story would definitely inspire you to pursue literature and art

An only child, and reared in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh. 

The origins of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, is entitled to Bebe Moore Campbell.

Yesterday only I was having a discussion with my mother where she told me that back in her time, when she did her graduation, girls were not encouraged to reading, writing and higher education in general. My mother was married at an early age. 

And while I was writing this piece, Bebe Moore's story on the contrary felt to me alluring as she not only has been recognised for her remarkable work, awards on her name but she took the liberty to fight for something extravagant that no common man would think of! 

Where people were still fighting for their rights, Bebe Moore took a step ahead in fighting for the mental health condition of minorities. 

Even if you are doing your 9-5 job and peeps out there going to college wouldn't think of fighting for the suppressed part of our community. Will you? 

Author of Your Blues Ain't Like Mine

Family:

Campbell’s parents were well educated, and her father, a war veteran, was permanently paralyzed in an auto accident the year Campbell was born.

Campbell’s parents separated in 1953, and she went on to live with her mother and maternal grandmother in Philadelphia during the school year and her father in North Carolina during the summer.

Her experiences growing up in both the North and South gave her a unique perspective on racial segregation in the United States.

Work: 

She was an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.

Campbell's works of fiction would often relay the harmful impact that racism would inflict on individuals and their relationships.

She also appeared as a regular commentator on National Public Radio. Campbell’s books were often informed by her own experiences and engaged with issues of interpersonal relationships. 

Her work often sought to dispel the stereotypes of Black people, touching on real-world issues such as the lynching of Emmett Till. 

And all her accomplishments show how devoted she was towards her nation and down to earth in her morals. 

Campbell was a champion in showcasing the duality of Black women and most of her novels’ protagonists were high-earning and ambitious.

In 1992 Campbell's would release her first, and most critically acclaimed novel, Your Blues Ain't Like Mine, which was described as one of the most influential books of 1992 by The New York Times Magazine . 

Campbell's interest in mental health was the catalyst for her first children's book, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, which was published in September 2003. This book won the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Outstanding Literature Award for 2003. 

The book tells the story of how a little girl copes with being reared by her mentally ill mother. Ms. Campbell was a member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and a founding member of NAMI-Inglewood. 

Campbell’s play Even with the Madness, further reflective of her interest in the effects of mental illness on family life, was first staged in 2003. Isn't that something interesting? Her work also involves drama and a lot of mysteries

In 2005, she released The 72-Hour Hold, a novel that explores bipolar disorder. An issue Campbell tells TIME was inspired by a mentally ill family member.

Autobiography:

Her 1989 autobiography Sweet Summer: Growing Up with and Without My Dad documents a youth spent alternating between her maternal and paternal families.

Major Mental health contribution:

Campbell’s advocacy for mental health expanded beyond the pages of her literature through her continued work with NAMI. 

Her capabilities were beyond words and could explain as if I would have been elated if my work from such an early age gets featured somewhere. Her work is a true reflection of determination, how will to do something can take a person to places giving an opportunity to explore one's skills. 

Campbell utilized her acclaim to advocate on behalf of the organization by speaking out against the stigma often associated with mental illness in communities of color, promoting treatment, and family education

She went on to be a founding member of NAMI-Inglewood, today called NAMI Urban Los Angeles.

The aim to defeat the stigma surrounding mental health in minority communities became a driving force in her life, and in 2005 after a suggestion from a close friend — Linda Wharton Boyd — Campbell decided to push for its national recognition by creating National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. 

After outlining the concept, she galvanized her community and assembled a National Minority Mental Health Taskforce to help push it through to legislation. 

With the help of the D.C. Department of Mental Health and then-mayor Anthony Williams, she held a news conference to encourage residents to get mental health checkups.

She spoke at churches, held book signings, and organized events targeted towards spreading awareness.

Wasn't she living a dream? How would you feel if you get to be part of such welfare events? 

The journey, unfortunately, came to an abrupt halt when Campbell was diagnosed with brain cancer and became too ill to continue — leading to her eventual passing at the age of 56 on November 27, 2006, in Los Angeles.

Through the continued support of this task force, her vision lived on — and in 2008, the U.S. House of Representatives designated July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, in her honor. 

It aimed to focus on the need to improve access to mental health treatment, promote public awareness of mental illness, primarily within minority communities.

Given today’s “self-care boom,” the conversation on mental health awareness has become more accepted in mainstream society. And it’s steadily making its way to Black and Brown communities where the topic is often seen as taboo

Bebe Moore Campbell envisioned a world for us that transcended beyond the caged stigmas of society. 

She saw the potential in the self-actualization of Black people — the impact of doing the internal work. Said Campbell, “When we finally stop asking America to love us and begin to love ourselves, we will prosper as a people.”

Her continuous enforcement on 'self love' gives me goosebumps as 'No one is you and that is your major power.' 

One in 5 Americans is affected by mental health conditions. Stigma is toxic to their mental health because it creates an environment of shame, fear and silence that prevents many people from seeking help and treatment. 

The perception of mental illness won’t change unless we act to change it.

Reading about her contribution towards such an enlarging motto, few questions dwell in my mind:

When you recover, what will you do?

When you recover, will you still be you?

Will you be stronger, will you be new,

When you recover from what you've been through?

Can life get better than it was before?

Will you realize your dreams and improve your score?

Campbell wrote eight books, three of which became New York Times best sellers; her awards included a 1978 Professional Women's Literature Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature grant, which she received in 1980.

Campbell lived in Los Angeles with her husband, Ellis, and had two children, Ellis Gordon, III, and Maia Campbell, now a successful actress.

Campbell passed away on November 27, 2006 at age 56 as this was a black day!

She said, “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.”

As we continue to live in a time of social injustice, racial inequity, prejudice, and a worldwide pandemic – we are all faced with the reality that mental health awareness should not be confined to an occasion, but something that should be freely discussed and addressed any day of the year. 

So as we all come together to learn from each other and add new resources to our wellness toolkits, let’s remember that we can take the lessons we learn this month and apply them to our daily lives.

She fills each one of us with an intriguing question on self, to look deep inside a problem, to search for its cause and consequences. She let us believe that one shouldn't sit hand in hand, if you want to bring a change, today is the day. 

Work from now. 

She fills me, the need to be kind and empathetic towards those who are different from us, who lack resources but definitely don't lack the spirit to live.

She teaches that one is self sufficient and has the courage to grow regardless of difficulties only if one would try. Try and move, move the up hills, drag down your ego, crawl in a river full of opportunities and dreams. 

My favorite quote of her is:

As I grow older part of my emotional survival plan must be to actively seek inspiration instead of passively waiting for it to find me. 

~ Bebe Moore Campbell

I hope her story and achievements inspire you each day, to look for a new reason to live and make someone smile. To never give up! :) 

Photo on Pittwire.


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