Acclaimed local author remembered for her dedication to those with mental illness
“My wife’s dream was to eliminate stigma, and we are making progress on that. She talked about the pink elephant that is in the room that no one wants to talk about,” said Bebe Moore-Campbell’s husband Ellis Gordon Jr. “Her idea was to take mental illness out of the closet, and let it be known that it is a disease.”
In an effort to bring awareness to the critical mental health issues affecting minorities and to help eliminate the disparities that exist in mental health treatment among ethnic populations, Los Angeles County Supervisor Yvonne B. Burke recently announced the first-ever Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.
“We all remember, certainly with fond regard, Bebe Moore-Campbell, the author, but (she was also) a person who dedicated her life to helping those with mental illness,” said Supervisor Burke.
Joining Supervisor Burke at this historic announcement were Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health (DMH) Acting Chief Deputy Director Robin Kay, Ph.D., National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Urban Los Angeles Chapter Executive Director Nancy Carter, Rosina Guzman Ehrlich, Lynn Goodloe, M.D., Barbara Ingram of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Center, David Yim of Special Service for Groups and Ellis Gordon, Jr.
“Today is a memorable day to honor Bebe,” said NAMI Urban Los Angeles executive director Carter. “We now have a month to honor her work and provide the important messages about minority mental health.”
“Bebe was able to take us on a journey in her book 72 Hour Hold and show us how it is to be a loving parent who has to take care of a loved one who is mentally ill,” said DMH Acting Chief Deputy Director Dr. Kay. “She also showed that with hope and help, recovery is possible.”
Moore-Campbell was born and grew up in Philadelphia, Pa. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh (Bachelor of Science in elementary education), she authored three bestsellers--Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Comeback Choir, and What You Owe Me. Her other works include the novel Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, her memoir Sweet Summer, Growing Up With and Without My Dad, and her first non-fiction book, Successful Women Angry Men: Backlash in the Two-Career Marriage.
Additionally, Moore-Campbell’s interest in mental health was the catalyst for her first children’s book Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry, which was published in September 2003. This book won the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Outstanding Literature Award for 2003.
In the work, Annie a little girl learns coping skills with the help of her grandmother, neighbors and school friends, when her mother’s mental illness disrupts her daily routine.
Moore-Campbell published 72 Hour Hold in June of 2005, and this literary work focuses on a family and redemption, as a mother struggles to save her 18 year-old daughter from the devastating consequences of mental illness. She does this by forcing the young woman to deal with her bipolar disorder, which sometimes makes 18 year-old Trina, who suffers from bipolar disorder, paranoid, wild and violent.
Moore-Campbell draws on her own powerful emotions and African American roots to craft a story of how mom Keri searches for assistance through normal channels and does not find it. This forces her to sign on for an illegal intervention.
Moore-Campbell was a member of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and a co-founding member of NAMI-Inglewood, now known as NAMI Urban Los Angeles. She died last year at the age 56 from brain cancer but her tireless advocacy and fight to bring attention to mental illness among minorities served as a catalyst for this historic announcement and month of recognition.