Today is the first annual #NoShame Day, which is meant to bring awareness to mental health issues within the international black community. Started by Bassey Ikpi, The Siwe Project has the goal of removing the very real stigma – particularly in the black community – surrounding mental health issues.
Statistics show that only about a third of black people who require mental health services seek help. It’s not possible to know whether this more a matter of cultural norms, a lack of access, or a combination of both, but the bottom line is people who need help are not getting it. And if anything can be done to first remove the stigma which makes some people resistant to asking for help, it must be.
Siwe is an online community which allows anyone who needs support a space to share their stories with others. Hopefully with #NoShame day, more individuals will feel comfortable telling their stories, and collectively others who can relate can find comfort and resources. More from the project:
Siwe Monsanto, The Siwe Project’s namesake, would have been sixteen on March 8th of this year. Instead, she chose to take her own life on June 29, 2011. It was Siwe’s suicide that prompted Bassey Ikpi, a family friend, to found the non-profit. As a mental health advocate and a noted writer, Ikpi has maintained a transparent look into her own life with Bipolar II Disorder. ”The aim is to create community. People with illness forging with those who support or have loved ones with an illness,” says Ikpi. The Siwe Project believes that sharing stories not only fosters individual healing, but community transformation. The Siwe Project strategically uses new media to cultivate safe spaces to share new stories. Additionally, the organization works to widen the public dialogue regarding the experiences of people of African descent living with mental illness.
July is National Minority Health Month. If you want to share your own journey through mental health challenges, you can either go to the Siwe website or tweet using the #noshame hashtag — and of course you can share whatever amount of your story that is comfortable for you. Ikpi is also taking time out today to have conversations with mental health professionals about resources and strategies to help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health moving forward. And even if you don’t have a personal story to share, you can still tweet your support.