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July was National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. September marked another month of chaos in the U.S. Although it’s not a topic that’s been at the forefront of discussions, considering everything happening in our world, it’s an issue that is arguably more significant now more than ever. Every year millions of people of color face the challenges that come with living with mental illness, and sadly in 2020 we still do not have consistent and equal access to adequate healthcare resources that would alleviate the consequences that arise out of these disparities.

These inequalities have become even clearer through the COVID-19 pandemic. As many of us now know, people of color are more severely impacted and more likely to die from COVID-19 than any other group. We’re more likely to have comorbidities and less likely to have access to healthy and affordable resources in our neighborhoods to improve our lifestyles.

First introduced in 2008, by the U.S. House of Representatives, Minority Mental Health Awareness Month was created by best-selling author and educator Bebe Moore Campbell. Campbell, who passed away in 2006 after suddenly losing her battle with brain cancer, was an avid champion of mental health awareness, often including mental health themes in her books, such as 72 Hour Hold and Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, which tells the challenges a young Black girl faces growing up with a mother who is mentally ill. Campbell went on to become a founding member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Urban Los Angeles, where she fought against the stigmas connected to mental illness and sought to educate and connect people of color with resources.

In 2020, collectively our mental health has suffered this year more so than that of the past. We’ve been forced into routine isolation while fearing the consequences of enemies both seen (police brutality, 45, racism, bigotry) and unseen (COVID-19). It's been a particularly difficult time for folks who already struggle with anxiety and depression. For some of us it’s been a debilitating nightmare. For others, it’s been fatal.

Upon hearing of the suicide of journalist and screenwriter Jas Fly last month I was completely devastated. Jas was a big name for me while I completed my writing, literature and publishing degree at Emerson College. My classes and assignments had an abundance of white writers and predominately white publications we focused on, so I clung to Black women writers and journalists as my beacons of hope and examples of what could be. Upon looking into her social media, the clues are there. She was open about her anxiety and how the pandemic worsened her battle with depression. Jas’ loss is an example of why we absolutely must prioritize our mental health during this pandemic.

And then we have Kanye West and his recent “bid” for presidency, which was later said to be a public symptom in an ongoing cycle of the highs and lows of his bi-polar disorder. Sources close to Ye’ have said he is in the middle of a manic episode and acting unpredictably. As of writing this, Kanye filed to be included on the Presidential ballot in Oklahoma, when just 24 hours earlier he stated he was dropping out of the race completely. Suffice it to say, mental illness is far more common than not.

So what can we do to care for ourselves in these times of social isolation, headlines riddled with death and constant images of dismal scenarios in the news? Here a few simple ways to up your self-care this month (and every month) as we continue through the year from hell: