|National Alliance on Mental Illness
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"Once my loved one 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. The message must go on billboards and in radio and TV public service announcements. It must be preached from pulpits and discussed in community forums. It's not shameful to have a mental illness. Get treatment. Recovery is possible."
--Bebe Moore Campbell, 2005
About Bebe Moore Campbell
Bebe Moore Campbell was an accomplished author, advocate, co-founder of NAMI Urban Los Angeles and national spokesperson, who passed away in November 2006.
She received NAMI's 2003 Outstanding Media Award for Literature for the book Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, written especially for children, about a young girl who learns how to cope with her mother's bipolar illness. In 2005, her novel 72-Hour Hold focused on an adult daughter and a family's experience with the onset of mental illness. It helped educate Americans that the struggle often is not just with the illness, but with the healthcare system as well.
Campbell advocated for mental health education and support among individuals with mental illness and their families of diverse communities.
[From 2008 article in Recovery for All] In 2005, the idea for a minority mental health awareness month came out of a conversation Campbell had with longtime friend Linda Wharton-Boyd. Campbell’s book, 72-Hour Hold, was about to be released and Wharton-Boyd was organizing book parties. Inspired by Campbell’s charge to eliminate stigma and provide mental health information, Wharton-Boyd suggested dedicating a month to the effort. When Campbell reacted with “You can’t just do that,” Wharton-Boyd responded, “Claim it!” And together they did.
The duo got to work, outlining the concept, deciding what the month would entail, and giving the month a tagline, “Providing awareness,supporting families, and eliminating stigma.” Then they pitched the idea to the D.C. Department of Mental Health and then-mayor Anthony Williams. This led to a news conference in Southeast D.C., where they encouraged residents to get mental health checkups. Support continued to build as Campbell and Wharton-Boyd held book signings, spoke in churches, and created a National Minority Mental Health Taskforce of friends and allies.
However, the effort came to a halt when Campbell became too ill to continue. When Campbell lost her battle to cancer, Wharton-Boyd and a cadre of friends, family, and ally advocates reignited their cause, fueled by the passion to honor the life of an extraordinary woman.
The taskforce members researched obtained the support of Representatives Albert Wynn [D-MD] and Diane Watson [D-CA], who cosigned legislation to create an official minority mental health awareness month. In May 2008, almost a year after the bill was first introduced, the House of Representatives passed it and declared July Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
Campbell’s friends and allies hope to see awareness of Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month grow each year.
Back to main National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month page
National Public Radio (NPR) audio files
Campbell was a frequent contributor and featured author on various programs of NPR. Below is a selected list of her appearances and posthumous coverage:
- Singin In The Comeback Choir (Morning Edition, Feb 17, 1998): Host Renee Montagne talks with author and Morning Edition Commentator Bebe Moore Campbell about her new book, "Singin' in the Comeback Choir," and the issues that prompted her to write it.
- 'What You Owe Me': Bebe Moore Campbell (Morning Edition, Aug. 3, 2001): What You Owe Me. The story of betrayal and reconciliation centers on the hot marketplace for African-American beauty products and takes its characters from the late 1940's to the present.
- 'Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry' (The Travis Smiley Show, Oct. 9, 2003): Award-winning author Bebe Moore Campbell talks with NPR's Tavis Smiley about her new book for children, Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, which helps children understand bipolar disease. The author is also a founding member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Inglewood, Calif.
- Mental Illness in the African-American Community (News and Notes, July 5, 2005): Ed Gordon talks with author Bebe Moore Campbell about her latest book 72 Hour Hold, in which Campbell challenged African Americans to talk honestly about mental illness and how its treatment affects their families.
- Stigma Can Prevent Much-Needed Mental Help (Morning Edition, Nov. 18, 2005): When a member of her family was diagnosed with a mental illness, author and commentator Bebe Moore Campbell learned that shame was one of the biggest obstacles to treatment. She calls for Americans — particularly people of color — to de-stigmatize mental illness.
- Author Bebe Moore Campbell Dies at 56 (All Things Considered, Nov. 27, 2006): Michele Norris talks with Marita Golden, a friend of the author's and a fellow novelist, about how Campbell's journalism background and coming of age in the 1960s shaped her work.
- Remembering Novelist Bebe Moore Campbell (Morning Edition, Nov. 28, 2006): Novelist Bebe Moore Campbell died Monday. She was known to many NPR listeners as a long-time commentator. Her novels about African-American life were best sellers, winning praise for their authenticity and readability, as well as their serious themes.
- Bebe Moore Campbell: Writer, Activist, Friend (Day to Day, Nov. 28, 2006): Best-selling author and NPR commentator Bebe Moore Campbell died Monday. She was 56. Karen Grigsby Bates remembers Cambell as a prominent writer, mental health activist — and friend.
- Bebe Moore Campbell's Heart and Mind Live On (News and Notes, Nov. 28, 2006): Cancer claims best-selling author Bebe Moore Campbell at 56, but it won't silence her legacy. Her books included Brothers and Sisters and What You Owe Me. Her success gave her a platform to speak out about mental illness.
- Snapshots: A Tribute to a Friend (News and Notes, Nov. 9, 2007): Best-selling novelist Bebe Moore Campbell died a year ago this month, and former Washington Post reporter Patrice Gaines has penned an open letter dedicated to her dear late friend.