We Must Act: Addressing and Combating Oppression During And Beyond BIPOC Mental Health Month

by Ana Flores

July is Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC)-Mental Health Month, formerly recognized as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. For me, every month is BIPOC Mental Health Month. Our communities are in dire need for increased and better physical and mental health care and living conditions that will lead to improved health outcomes. What is of most importance is that in the face of hardship, we show up for each other, and for others - highlighting both the resilience and strength of BIPOC communities.

Every year around this time, I read through various infographics aimed at educating the general public about QTBIPOC mental health disparities and I see myself and my friends represented across the board; anxiety, check. PTSD, check. Depression, check. It’s as if I am a walking statistic.

Is this a depressing game of Bingo? What do I win?

I am not a walking statistic. Statistics represent real people. They represent my QTBIPOC communities.

Behind the trauma jokes we use to survive exists the real manifestation of discrimination in many or most aspects of our lives.

QTBIPOC communities are too often forced to endure the compounding negative effects of both racism and anti-LGBTQ bias, elevating stress, and compounding mental health challenges.

What does compounding oppression look like?

Compounding oppression is watching people that look like you, people that are in your communities, be targeted day after day for the color of their skin, for their gender identity, for their gender expression. It’s watching entities that are meant to protect you instead target you and your communities. Whether it’s police brutality, legislators working to take away your rights and dignity, doctors without cultural competency, educators pushing to erase our histories from their classrooms, bi-phobia or racism from within the LGBTQ community, the disproportionate impact of COVID on our communities, or everyday microaggressions, there is never a shortage of racism or anti-LGBTQ bias.

The direct effects of compounding oppression, racism or anti-LGBTQ bias are much less obvious. QTBIPOC people are most likely to screen positive or at-risk for alcohol and substance use disorders, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, psychosis, bipolar disorder and PTSD. We are more likely to be uninsured or underinsured. We are less likely to seek treatment. We are less likely to find culturally competent treatment or providers.

Again we are reminded - we face discrimination in many or most aspects of our lives.

HRC recognizes the particular urgency of addressing all forms of discrimination that affect our QTBIPOC communities. We must prioritize our community’s well-being by connecting LGBTQ people with needed resources, like our QTBIPOC mental health and well-being resource. We must all act to ensure that all BIPOC -- including those of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions -- receive the support and resources needed to truly thrive.

The Human Rights Campaign makes it part of our daily work to identify the many forms of compounding oppression and develop strategic plans to combat it. We push for medical spaces to be inclusive of transgender and non-binary folks. We urge Congress to reform policing. We develop and implement comprehensive training programs to help educators and youth-serving professionals acquire the skills to affirm LGBTQ identities in school settings. We file lawsuits against states that have enshrined discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ bills targeting the transgender community.

We must all act in big and small ways. We must act at the federal level by passing the Equality Act. We must act at the state level, protecting our BIPOC trans and nonbinary siblings from the barrage of attacks they are facing from discriminatory bathroom and sport-exclusion bills. We must act at the local level, ensuring our local public and private institutions are investing in QTBIPOC communities in real ways. We must act at the community level, having conversations with our friends and families to ensure they are aware of all of the ways in which racism and anti-LGBTQ bias impact us all. We must act at the personal level, identifying where our privileges intersect with other people’s oppressions to see where we can begin to show up in allyship to each other.

Just as there is no shortage of evidence of compounding oppression in our lives, there is no shortage of ways to show up and support QTBIPOC communities. We must act.