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Sense of Congress Regarding Establishment of a Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. WYNN. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 134) expressing the sense of the Congress that there should be established a Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness, especially within minority communities, as amended.

The Clerk read the title of the concurrent resolution.

The text of the concurrent resolution is as follows:

H. Con. Res. 134

Whereas mental illness is one of the leading causes of disabilities in the United States, affecting one out of every four families in America and victimizing both those with the illness and those who care for and love those afflicted;

Whereas according to the National Alliance for Mentally Ill (NAMI), the direct and indirect costs to the workplace resulting from mental illness total over $34,000,000 annually;

Whereas the National Institute of Mental Health has reported that many people suffer from more than one mental disorder at a given time and 45 percent of those with any mental disorder meet criteria for two or more disorders, with severity strongly related to comorbidity (including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer);

Whereas according to the 1999 Surgeon General's Report on Mental Illness, more than 54,000,000 Americans have a mental disorder in any given year, although fewer than 8,000,000 seek treatment;

Whereas according to the same Surgeon General's Report on Mental Illness, adult Caucasians who suffer from depression or an anxiety disorder are more likely to receive treatment than adult African Americans with the same disorders even though the disorders occur in both groups at about the same rate, when taking into account socioeconomic factors;

Whereas according to a report from the Office of Minority and National Affairs for the American Psychiatric Association, although mental illness impacts all people, African Americans experience a much greater unmet need for mental health services and receive a lesser quality of care, thereby resulting in mental health disparities;

Whereas the three major brain diseases--schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression--adversely affect the economy, contribute to the rise in incarceration rates, and erode the quality of family life of those involved;

Whereas nearly two-thirds of all people with a diagnosable mental illness do not seek mental health treatment due to stigma, lack of community-based resources, inadequate diagnosis, or no diagnosis;

Whereas communities of color are in need of culturally competent mental health resources and the training of all health care providers to serve multi-ethnic consumers;

Whereas advocacy for traditional mental health organizations must be encouraged to incorporate and integrate minority mental health education and outreach within their respective portfolios;

Whereas other research studies estimate that 50 to 70 percent of all youth in the juvenile justice system have mental health problems that are usually undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated, or badly treated, thus leaving those incarcerated in vulnerable conditions;

Whereas minority mental health consumers often fall into the category of the ``working poor'', facing additional challenges because they are underinsured or uninsured, which often leads to late diagnosis or no diagnosis of mental illness;

Whereas the faith, customs, values, and traditions of a variety of ethnic groups should be taken into consideration when attempting to treat and diagnose mental illnesses;

Whereas a small percentage of African Americans receive mental health treatment, and a significant percentage refuse treatment or view mental health treatment as the ``treatment of last resort'', due to the stigma associated with mental illness;

Whereas according to the 1999 Surgeon General's Report on Mental Illness, African Americans are misdiagnosed at a higher rate within the mental health delivery system, and greater effort must be made to accurately assess the mental health of African Americans;

Whereas there is a need to improve public awareness of mental illness and to strengthen local and national awareness of brain diseases in order to assist with advocacy for persons of color with mental illness, so that they may receive adequate and appropriate treatment that will result in their becoming fully functioning members of society;

Whereas community mobilization of resources is needed to educate, advocate for, and train mental health providers to help remove barriers to treatment of mental disorders;

Whereas access to mental health treatment and services is of paramount importance;

Whereas there is a need to encourage primary care physicians to offer screening, partner with mental health providers, and seek the appropriate referral to specialists and to encourage timely and accurate diagnosis;

Whereas the late Bebe Moore Campbell (mother, grandmother, wife, friend, advocate, celebrated writer and journalist, noted author, radio commentator, community activist, co-founder of National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Urban Los Angeles, University of Pittsburgh Trustee and educator, and recipient of numerous awards and honors) was recognized for her tireless advocacy and fight to bring awareness and attention to mental illness among minorities with the release of her New York Times best selling novel, ``72 Hour Hold'', and her children's book ``Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry'', which both bring awareness to the plight of those with brain disorders;

Whereas Bebe Moore Campbell through her dedication and commitment sought to move communities to support mental wellness through effective treatment options, open access to mental health treatment and services, and improve community outreach and support for the many loved ones who are unable to speak for themselves; and

Whereas July would be an appropriate month to recognize as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that--

(1) improved access to mental health treatment and services and public awareness of mental illness are of paramount importance;

(2) there is an important need for improved access to care, treatment, and services for those diagnosed with severe and persistent mental health disorders and improved public awareness of mental illness; and

(3) an appropriate month should be recognized as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month to enhance public awareness of mental illness and mental illness among minorities.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Wynn) and the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Smith) will each control 20 minutes.

The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Maryland.

GENERAL LEAVE

Mr. WYNN. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the resolution under consideration.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Maryland?

There was no objection.

Mr. WYNN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this resolution will designate July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mental illness is one of the leading causes of disabilities in the United States affecting one out of every four Americans, and victimizing both those with the illness as well as those who care for and love those afflicted. However, according to a report from the Office of Minority and National Affairs for the American Psychiatric Association, although mental illness impacts all people, African Americans experience a much greater unmet need for mental health services and receive a lesser quality of care, thereby resulting in mental health disparities. Further, according to a Surgeon General's report on mental illness, African Americans who do seek help are misdiagnosed at a higher rate within the mental health delivery system.

Communities of color are in need of culturally competent mental health providers and expanding training for all health care providers to serve multiethnic consumers in order to accurately assess and treat African Americans and other minority patients.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one out of every three African Americans are more likely to stop treatment early, and are less likely to receive followup due to a lack of insurance coverage. Without adequate health insurance, mental health cannot be properly treated. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of African Americans receive mental health treatment, and a significant percentage refuse treatment or view mental health treatment as a treatment of last resort due to a stigma associated with mental illness.

To address these problems, obviously we need more resources and access to health insurance. But critically we also need to improve public awareness and encourage minority citizens to confront the illness instead of denying it or being ashamed of its existence in their families and communities.

This bill will, number one, raise awareness about mental illness and mental health disparities among minorities nationwide. Second, it will encourage training for health care providers to ensure proper diagnosis of African American patients and minority communities. And, third, it will improve public health by encouraging the expansion of vital mental health care into underserved communities in every State.

Let me take a moment and tell you about Bebe Moore Campbell. Bebe Moore Campbell was a renowned African American author who died on November 27, 2006, at the age of 56. She was also my college classmate at the University of Pittsburgh. Through her dedication and commitment, Ms. Campbell sought to remove the stigma of mental illness in the African American community. Her novel, ``72 Hour Hold,'' and her children's book, ``Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry,'' both bring to light the plight of those with brain disorders. Her goal was to move communities to support mental wellness through effective treatment, increased resources, access to mental health services, and improved community outreach and support.

July would be an appropriate month to be designated as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, since our first book, ``72 Hour Hold,'' which addressed minority mental health was released to the public in July of 2005.

I want to thank my lead cosponsor, Congresswoman Diane Watson, as well as all the cosponsors of this bill for their support, and I urge all of my colleagues to support this very important legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. WYNN. Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to me that this bill is met with such bipartisan support. I particularly want to thank my colleague, Mr. Smith, for his support. He is recognized throughout this institution as a champion for the wellness of our citizens, human rights, and for supporting causes which make our country better. I want to thank him again for his support and thank all the cosponsors.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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