I’ll admit, while doing a bit of research on the origins of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, I was more than a little ashamed to learn that it is in fact entitled Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. As someone who writes primarily about mental health and considers themselves to be an advocate — especially as it pertains to the Black community — how could I not know of her contributions? As I began to dive deeper, what I learned helped shift that shame to a sense of pride.
Bebe Moore Campbell was a best-selling author, journalist, and teacher who the New York Times describes as being “part of the first wave of Black novelists who made the lives of upwardly mobile Black people a routine subject for popular fiction.”
After leading a storied career as a journalist, having written for publications such as Essence, Ebony, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, Campbell transitioned into the world of fiction writing in the 1990s. Her work often sought to dispel the stereotypes of Black people, touching on real-world issues such as the lynching of Emmett Till. Campbell was a champion in showcasing the duality of Black women and most of her novels’ protagonists were high-earning and ambitious.
Her transition to tackling the subject of mental health took place in 2003, when Campbell released her first children’s book Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, which highlights a young girl’s journey of living with her mentally ill mother. This release was the impetus for a shift in her writing to cover the nuances of being Black with a mental illness, a subject that hadn’t been so boldly dealt with in mainstream culture at the time. The book went on to earn her an Outstanding Media Award for Literature from The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
In 2005, she released The 72-Hour Hold, a novel that explores bipolar disorder. An issue Campbell tells TIME was inspired by a mentally ill family member.
Campbell’s advocacy for mental health expanded beyond the pages of her literature through her continued work…