DC Office of Human Rights | Volume XXXVVIV| July 2022
July is Minority* Mental Health Awareness Month!
(Click the image to hear Nancy Carter discuss the origins of NMMHAM)
*The inclusive way to refer to these groups is to use people of color, communities of color, or historically marginalized groups*
Each July, there is a renewed nationwide effort to bring awareness to the multitude of mental health experiences faced by communities of color. This effort takes into consideration the ways in which systemic racism and historical barriers produce inequities in accessible mental health and substance abuse resources for these communities. 

Disparities in mental health diagnoses and treatment begin within historically marginalized communities due their various cultural beliefs and stigmas around mental health. As a result, many individuals experiencing symptoms do not seek help leading to higher rates of mental health issues compared to their white counterparts. These communities may also face higher rates of poverty, discrimination, drug abuse, parental and family neglect, and exposure to violence. These environmental factors contribute to higher rates of emotional trauma, anxiety, depression, PTSD, and OCD. 

In addition to disparities caused by cultural beliefs, communities of color face increased issues with things like facing prejudice and discrimination by insurance companies and health care providers, access to quality care, lack of information, lack of language services, the inability to take time off work, and getting reliable transportation. 

To learn about mental health in communities of color, please visit: Statistics on Health Disparities. 
For national resources and publications, please visit: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Resources and Publications. 

Where to Get Help in the District 

About the Month 
Bebe Moore Campbell, co-founder of the National Alliance of Mental Illness, Urban Los Angeles, was a driving force behind the establishment of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. Her daughter battled mental illness and a system that prevented her from getting help and support. As a result, she became a tireless advocate for mental health education and improving mental healthcare facilities in marginalized communities. She established NAMI-Inglewood to create a space that was safe for Black people to talk about mental health concerns. On June 2, 2008, Congress formally recognized her efforts by declaring July as Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month. 
What's Inside
  • Director’s Note
  • Protected Trait
  • What’s New and Upcoming
  • Events and Observances
Interim Director's Note
Dear Residents, Neighbors, and Friends,

As we raise awareness around mental health and its effects on marginalized communities, it is important to work together to eliminate the stigma that surrounds mental health and mental health treatments. Mental health illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. In 2020, an estimated 52.9 million adults (or 1 in 5 adults) in the U.S. were living with a mental illness. Likewise, 1 in 5 children currently or at some point in their life will have experienced a debilitating mental illness. Among children, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, or other behavioral issues are some of the most diagnosed disorders. While there’s no single cause that contributes to the rates of mental illness in the U.S., a number of factors may be at play including, but not limited to, early adverse life experiences such as trauma or abuse, experiences related to other ongoing medical conditions, genetics, chemical imbalances, or substance abuse. There’s no doubt that the first years of the 2020s have contributed significantly to mental health issues, especially with a global pandemic, environmental catastrophes, social unrest, military conflicts, inflation, and food shortages. In fact. the World Health Organization reported that by March 2022, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a 25 percent increase in depression and anxiety worldwide.

Statistics show that less than half of U.S. adults with mental illness received treatment in 2022. Among adults, men (37.4 percent); non-Hispanic Asian (20.8 percent); non-Hispanic black or African American (37.1 percent); and Hispanic or Latino persons (35.1 percent) have the lowest annual treatment rates.

No matter what you may be experiencing with mental health, we want you to know that you are not alone, and that you are protected from discrimination under the D.C. Human Rights Act and under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Under the D.C Human Rights Act, mental health disability discrimination protection exists in employment, housing, educational institutions, public accommodation, and government services. If you or someone you know has suffered a disability discrimination, a complaint can filed with OHR here, free of charge.  Likewise, because mental health conditions can have potential genetic roots, it is important to recognize that genetic information discrimination is also prohibited in D.C. That’s why we are highlighting the genetic information protected trait in this month’s newsletter. 

Though we have provided mental health and substance abuse resources above, through the D.C. Department of Behavioral Health and the United Way of the National Capital Area, we would also like to highlight other forms of resources in available in your own communities.

When we think of the outdoors, of parks, and of recreational activities in those spaces, we rarely consider their ability to improve our mental and physical health. A 2019 study in Frontiers in Psychology found that spending just 20-30 minutes outside has been proven to reduce stress and cortisol levels. Direct sunlight and fresh air boosts serotonin, releases endorphins, increases vitamin D, and has shown in some studies to provide a protective effect for cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and diabetes. Exercising outside has also been proven effective in fighting depression and anxiety.

Since 1985, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has celebrated Park and Recreation Month in July to promote building strong, healthy, and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. This year’s theme is “We Rise Up for Parks and Recreation." The theme also acknowledges the parks and rec professionals who support their community in the service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. In D.C., our Department of Parks and Recreation has a number of outdoor activities for your enjoyment, including “Play in the Park” on July 12, Family Entertainment Night on July 13, a paint party for seniors on July 20, and more. You can learn more about the events here

In the words of Mr. Rogers, let’s remember that “All of us, at some point or other, needs helps. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us a neighbors--in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

Hnin Khaing, Interim Director
Trait of the Month: Genetic Information
Genetic Information was added in 2005 as the 17th protected trait under the D.C. Human Rights Act of 1977. It prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on your or your family's genetic history which includes family medical history.

One of the many laws the Office of Human Rights investigates, mediates, adjudicates, and prosecutes complaints of discrimination in addition to the HRA is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, also known as GINA. This law took effect on November 21, 2009 and prohibits discrimination against employees or applicants because of their genetic information. Genetic information includes information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual’s family members. Family medical history is included because it is often used to determine whether someone has an increased risk of getting a disease, disorder, or condition in the future. It can also include an individual’s request for, or receipt of, genetic services. 

All major psychiatric disorders have a heritable component. Anxiety disorders, PTSD, OCD, and major depressive disorder are roughly 20-45% inherited. Alcohol dependence and anorexia nervosa are 50 to 60% inherited. Bipolar disorder, autism spectrum disorders, schizophrenia, and ADHD are over 75% inherited.
What's New and Upcoming
From our Partners at the Office of Racial Equity
Starting July 25, 2022, the Mayor’s Office of Racial Equity (ORE), in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Community Affairs (MOCA), is hosting five engagement forums to gain ideas and feedback from residents to help shape the District’s first Racial Equity Action Plan, a roadmap for reducing inequities and improving life for all Washingtonians.
Click the image to read the press release and register.
  Care for LGBTQ Seniors and Senior with HIV Amendment Act of 2020

The DC Office of Human Rights announces the implementation of the D.C. Law 23-154. Care for LGBTQ Seniors and Seniors with HIV Amendment Act of 2020. In its efforts to “creating safer spaces” OHR has worked expeditiously with government partners, community organizations, and advocates to create a sound plan to implement the law and to ensure that the privacy and other rights and benefits of seniors living with HIV and LGBTQ seniors receiving long term care in the District of Columbia are protected. The law requires OHR to develop a training session for all staff in institutions providing long-term care and to build a team of expert trainers to deploy the training.
If you are interested in learning more about the program, please email larry.villegas-perez@dc.gov
If you are a business that hires individuals who receive tips as part of their salary this is for you.
Know Your Rights: The 21 Protected Traits in Washington, D.C.
August 4, 2022
1:30 - 3:00 p.m.

Virtual via Zoom
Have you already completed the Human Rights Training Program 2.0 Overview? Are you ready to be one step closer to becoming a fully-certified Human Rights Liaison? OHR is happy to announce one of the first optional trainings to complete the 4 courses necessary to complete the Human Rights Liaison training. Please join us on July 28th from 1:30- 3pm for "Know Your Rights: The 21 Protected Traits in Washington, D.C."

Through the DC Human Rights Act (DCHRA), the District offers a comprehensive 21 protected traits. These traits include: race, sex, age, personal appearance, gender identity or expression, and more. In addition to the DCHRA, the Office of Human Rights (OHR) enforces local and federal laws for all DC residents, employees, and visitors. This talk will discuss the OHR agency overall and how discrimination claims are enforced, with a focus on each of the 21 traits. By the end, you will have an understanding of the protections you have in the District.
Events and Observances
(Click the image to catch a summer vibe with DPR and celebrate National Parks and Recreation Month)

(Click the image to learn more about Disability Pride Month)
  • Disability Pride Month
  • National Parks and Recreation Month
  • National Family Reunion Month
  • National Make a Difference to Children Month
  • International Alopecia Month for Women
  • Sarcoma Awareness Month
  • Worldwide Bereaved Parents Awareness Month
(Click the image to see the Discovery Channel Shark Week Schedule)
  • National Independent Living Week (July 1-7)
  • National Marijuana Facts Week (July 4-10)
  • Shark Week July 24-July 31
  • National Postal Worker Day, July 1
  • National I Forgot Day, World UFO Day, July 2
  • Independence Day, July 4
  • Eid- al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice), July 9-10
  • National 7-Eleven Day, July 11
  • Cow Appreciation Day, July 12
  • Barbershop Music Appreciation Day, July 13
  • Shark Awareness Day, July 14
  • Nelson Mandela International Day, July 18
  • Space Exploration Day, July 20
  • Amelia Earhart Day, July 24
  • National Disability Independence Day/ 32nd Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act, July 26

DC Office of Human Rights | 202.727.4559 | ohr.dc.gov