Leaders of Promise: Destigmatizing Mental Health Problems in Communities of Color

NJHI 2017: Next Generation Community Leaders Leaders of Promise

In the Leaders of Promise project, the Leaders – 10 young adults from Camden and Pennsauken – have passionately expressed interests on ways to destigmatize mental health problems, specifically in communities of color.

Being a group comprised of people of color, talking about mental health issues such as anxiety or depression is difficult, especially with our families and peers. In one meeting, the Leaders recalled experiences where they chose not to share what they were going through at the time, out of the fear of being judged or being seen as weak. Reflecting on those situations, they wished discussions on mental health were normalized in their communities.

However, meeting with and learning about organizations like Healthy Minds Philly, and programs such as Mental Health First Aid, the team expressed an interest in learning about these community partners’ trainings, and collaborating with them in the future. Mental Health First Aid provides training to individuals interested in assisting others with mental health problems and those at risk of experiencing a crisis. Being equipped with the skills to “assess risk of self-harm, listen non-judgmentally, reassure and share information, encourage self-help, and encourage professional help,” those who receive appropriate training can help a variety of individuals in need, from youth to college students and veterans.

By increasing knowledge about mental health and wellness among communities of color, through neighbors who are also people of color, there can be less of a stigma around mental health. Open and meaningful conversations can generate change in those communities. Enriching them with knowledge will build the confidence of those with mental health needs to ask for assistance and better help themselves. Programs and organizations like Mental Health First Aid and Healthy Minds Philly help bring awareness and normalize mental health discussions, but also improve attitudes regarding mental health.

Follow our team’s progress on Facebook and Twitter and track all of the Next Generation Community Leaders using #NJLeaders2030.

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Jess Edwards