Elevating Bebe Moore Campbell's Legacy in 2023
By Veronica Handunge, M.P.H.
In July, APA embarked on its annual effort to honor the late renowned author and mental health advocate, Bebe Moore Campbell. Established by Congress in 2008, Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is a call to action and reminder of the mental health inequities affecting communities, and in particular, young people of color.
This year’s APA MOORE Equity in Mental Health Initiative included an inaugural Youth Mental Health Summit, second Annual Community Mental Health Fair, 3rd Annual 5K Run, Walk, and Roll Fundraiser to support non-profits focused on enhancing mental health for youth of color, and two mental health roundtable conversations. This initiative led by APA’s Division of Diversity and Health Equity, came to fruition via key partnerships, including this year’s Grand Marshal, Jay Barnett – a former professional football player turned marriage & family therapist and author, who specializes in connecting with Black communities to normalize conversations around mental health.
Kick Off with A Roundtable Conversation on Maternal Mental Health
Featuring Diana Ramos, M.D., California's surgeon general, and Dionne Hart, M.D., APA member psychiatrist, APA kicked off the MEMHI with a session focused on the impact of severe maternal morbidity and mortality on families of color. In California, Dr. Ramos has made mental health and health disparities a top priority. During the roundtable discussion, she called for tailored solutions and community-driven interventions to bridge these glaring gaps. “It is critically important to listen to community voices... you cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Dr. Ramos.
Partnering with Maryland’s Largest HBCU for APA’s MOORE Equity in Mental Health Community Fair
On July 8, APA held its second annual MOORE Equity in Mental Health Community Fair. This year was in partnership with Morgan State University (MSU)’s Center for Urban Health Equity in the School of Community Health. The fair provided community residents with mental health information and resources and connected them to mental health services and organizations.
Approximately 40 mental health and social services organizations attended. The event began with opening remarks from APA Deputy Medical Director and Chief of Diversity and Health Equity, Regina James, M.D., Baltimore City District 46 Delegate Robbyn T. Lewis, and MEMHI Grand Marshal, Jay Barnett who emphasized the importance of community mental health work and ensuring mental health parity because “mental health is life in motion.”
Collaborating with DC’s Youth Leadership Institute for Inaugural Youth Mental Health Summit
In response to the U.S. Surgeon General's advisory on the youth mental health crisis in the U.S., APA held the inaugural APA Moore Equity in Mental Health Youth Summit on July 12. Through this one-day summit, APA collaborated with the Marion Barry Youth Leadership Institute to design a youth-centered mental health event focused on cultivating mental wellness among 150 young people of color in Washington, D.C.
Students heard from Jay Barnett, Grand Marshall for the initiative, who described his own experiences struggling with mental health as a Black man and former athlete. They also participated in a peer-led workshop presented by the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health on mental health and psychosocial support. In the final session of the day, attendees had the opportunity to learn more about creative mental health coping skills from three youth authors of the collaborative novel, “What It Cost Us: Stories of Pandemic & Protest in D.C.,” who used creative writing to process the challenging and life-changing events of 2020.
Future leaders from the SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program also participated on a panel led by Dr. Vishal Madaan, M.D., APA Chief, Division of Education and Deputy Medical Director, sharing their insight about the importance of maintaining mental wellness and to seek help if they are struggling with their mental health.
Shining a Light on Teen Suicide and Mental Wellness: A Roundtable Discussion
This critical conversation featured MEMHI Grand Marshal Jay Barnett and APA Deputy Medical Director, Chief of Diversity & Health Equity, Regina James, M.D. It was moderated by Candice Adkins Wilson, news producer at Howard University Radio Network. The session aimed to illuminate strategies and resources for supporting young individuals of color in their mental health journeys. Barnett highlighted these important discussions around mental wellness can be started through simple conversations about how a youth’s day went. It only takes a small comment to spark a much-needed dialogue.
Wrapping Up with the 3rd Annual APA MOORE Equity in Mental Health 5K Run, Walk and Roll
More than 100 people gathered at Wheaton Regional Park in Maryland and almost 500 joined across the nation and globe to participate in the 3rd Annual APA MOORE Equity in Mental Health 5K Run, Walk, and Roll. The 5K event marked a fitting finale to the MEMHI, raising awareness and over $82,000 in funds from 670 donors for the APA Foundation MOORE Equity in Mental Health Community Grants Program.
All seven of APA’s Minority and Underrepresented Caucuses and multiple District Branches had 5K teams, and overall, a total of 44 teams from 31 states and 6 countries participated. Proceeds from the annual 5K go to non-profits, each receiving up to $10,000 over two years to support efforts focused on improving the mental health of youth of color.