Bebe Moore Campbell- 2000

Bebe Moore Campbell

Author of three New York Times bestsellers and founder of NAMI-Inglewood (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

Changing the Stigma Around African-American Mental Health Issues

By Garith Hartnett (Allied Health, Class of 2024) 

Bebe Moore Campbell is an amazing author, who has written many award-winning books based on her life and experiences. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and went on to teach in Atlanta Georgia. Upon moving to Washington D.C., she gave up teaching and became a writer. She wrote about the struggles a person of color faces, as well as the added difficulties faced by those with mental illness. Growing up in both the North and South gave her a unique perspective on racial segregation in the United States. Some of her greatest accomplishments came about late in life when she founded NAMI-Inglewood. Bebe Moore Campbell is important to us today because she exposed serious issues by sharing her experiences, encouraging others to seek help for mental health problems despite the stigma associated with it and pioneering a facility to help the community. She not only exposed the inequity but worked to positively change minds and lives. 

Bebe Moore Campbell started the NAMI-Inglewood organization to help and support her daughter and others like her, who suffered from mental illness. The organization would provide the help they need to overcome and work through their mental illnesses. Bebe Moore Campbell had found it difficult to find a place for people like her and her daughter to talk about their mental health problem. "While everyone - all colors - everyone is affected by stigma - no one wants to say 'I'm not in control of my mind.' No one wants to say, 'The person I love is not in control of [their] mind.” (Campbell) I think what Bebe is saying here is that nobody wants to say that they are losing to their mental illness and that it is taking control over their life, out of fear that they will be discriminated against by others. She then goes on to add “But people of color really don't want to say it because we already feel stigmatized by virtue of skin color or eye shape or accent and we don't want any more reasons for anyone to say, ‘You're not good enough.’”(Campbell) Bebe does a great job at describing the way people of color feel in this quote and how they already have enough things to be discriminated against and feel that if they were to come out about their mental health problems they would be further stigmatized. This is one of the major reasons she started NAMI-Inglewood in a predominantly Black neighborhood. She did it in order to create a space that was specifically safe for people of color to talk about their mental health concerns.  

Bebe Moore Campbell wrote many books that dealt with racial issues and was even described as “part of the first wave of Black novelists who made the lives of upwardly mobile Black people a routine subject for popular fiction.” (Margalit Fox) One of the books that stands out is called “72-hour hold”. It is about an African American girl named Trina who suffers from bi-polar disorder. She runs away from her mother and struggles to get help for her mental illness. I found this story very interesting and I recognized the ties between the story and the author and her own family. For example, her daughter's mental illness related to her own daughter and the parents being divorced related to bebe and her husband being divorced. Bebe even talked about how the book was inspired by a family member who suffered from the disorder.   

Due to all of the accomplishments Bebe Moore Campell achieved, after her death on November 27, 2006 at age 56, Albert Wynn (D-Md.) tried to fulfill one of Bebe Moore Campbell's goals.  He introduced a resolution to Congress to declare July as the Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. The following year a unanimous and bipartisan vote approved Congressional Resolution #134 to recognize Campbell for her commitment to promoting public awareness of mental illness. Thanks to the work of Bebe Moore Campbell, many people today, especially people of color, can find the help and support they need in order to overcome mental illnesses. She inspires us to not only work through our individual or familial problems but to go further and reach out to those that may experience similar problems with a helping hand and to encourage intervention and support in the community. 

Works Cited 

Bebe Moore Campbell's Biography.” The 2021. NPR Cookie Consent and Choices. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 29 January 2021]. 

Fox, Margalit. “Bebe Moore Campbell, Novelist of Black Lives, Dies at 56.” The New York Times, 28 Nov. 2006,  

Bebe Moore Campbell.” Mental Health America, 

Beau, Aisha. “Bebe Moore Campbell Was the Champion for Mental Health We Need Right Now.” Medium, ZORA, 9 July 2019,