FEATUREDMental Health

Addressing the mental health needs of the BIPOC community

In 2008, Congress formally recognized July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, now called BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and Persons of Color) Mental Health Month. This month asks us to acknowledge the unique struggles that underrepresented communities face when it comes to mental health and asks us to work together to address these challenges.

The BIPOC community has a long history of overcoming adversity, and through grassroots organizing, strong community bonds, tireless advocacy, and hard work, has flourished and led the way for many societal changes. The BIPOC community, through leaders such as Bebe Moore Campbell, is once again leading the way and calling for culturally competent and accessible mental health services that meet the unique needs of BIPOC and other underrepresented communities.

There are several disparities in mental health outcomes for BIPOC communities. BIPOC and white populations tend to present similar rates of mental illness, yet BIPOC individuals have a higher probability of being disabled because of mental health disorders. Similarly, Black and Hispanic adults tend to have more persistent depression than white adults. Members of BIPOC communities are also often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed, leading to improper or incomplete treatment plans.

There are many issues that can contribute to these disproportionate outcomes, including:

  • Receiving treatment becomes more complicated if the service provider and the person seeking treatment don’t speak the same language. Additionally, written materials and forms are often only available in English. Language barriers can also exist even if providers and persons seeking treatment speak the same language but have different cultural backgrounds, such as misunderstanding or misinterpreting culturally specific phrases.
  • Indigenous persons are more likely to live in rural communities, where there is limited access to mental health care providers.
  • The historical treatment of marginalized communities, including non-consensual medical research, combined with continued negative experiences (such as racism) within healthcare settings, has contributed to a distrust of the medical system, including the mental health care system.
  • Cultural exclusion. The Western Medicine Model fails to acknowledge culturally relevant treatments from marginalized communities. Alternative treatments may not be covered by insurance because they are often dismissed by the Western Medical Model, making it extremely difficult to obtain funding to research the effectiveness of these treatments.

The mental health care community, including those of us here in Topeka and at Valeo, is working hard to break these barriers, but we need help. Here are a few ways you can advocate for more accessible and culturally competent mental health services:

  • Support funding to research alternative, traditional, and cultural healthcare/mental healthcare treatments.
  • Research culturally responsive mental health care providers in your area and share that information with those who ask.
  • If a BIPOC person in your life expresses concerns about their mental health but is hesitant to seek professional help, listen carefully and validate their experiences. Don’t argue or try to solve the problem.

The BIPOC community is resilient, and through that resiliency, the community has thrived. We can support the continued thriving of our friends and neighbors by dismantling the barriers that prevent BIPOC individuals from receiving the mental healthcare they deserve.

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges, professional help is available. Valeo’s Crisis Center, 400 SW Oakley Avenue in Topeka, is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for walk-in mental health emergencies. In case of a behavioral health crisis, contact 988 or the Valeo 24-Hour Crisis Line at 785-234-3300.


-by Mikki Burcher, Mental Health First Aid Instructor, Valeo Behavioral Health Care


Valeo Behavioral Health Care



Crisis Services           

400 SW Oakley, Topeka, KS  66606

24 Hour Crisis Line: 785-234-3300


National Suicide Prevention Life Line

Call or text 988 anytime 24/7/365


Shawnee County Suicide Prevention Coalition



Family Service and Guidance Center  (18 and under)

325 SW Frazier, Topeka, KS  66606

24 Hour Crisis Number: 785-232-5005


Healing after Loss to Suicide Group  (HeALS)

Sandy Reams – Group Facilitator