#NoShame Day brings awareness to mental health

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. 


Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/cassandrawoolf/ Cassandra Woolf

    I have such mixed feelings about this. Given the incredibly strong family support system in the black community, given how many black children are diagnosed and treated with powerful drugs untested on children, I think the people avoiding “mental health treatment” might be better off. I have been mistreated for manic depression for 27 years. I was diagnosed or misdiagnosed at 40, and then my happy, successful life went to hell. The drugs have smothered my writing. The discrimination has terribly hurt my career as a social worker. Being an open manic depressive was career suicide. One of “us” can’t be one of “them.”

    Being upset about treatment makes the assumption that treatment is effective, that the drugs work. I have taken 16 drugs since 1985. It is not clear that any of them didn’t do more harm than good.

    • http://feministing.com/members/kurogo/ Kurogo

      I’m in a similar boat to you. I was diagnosed with depression before I hit puberty and tried about 9 different drugs over the 10 years after that. Most of them didn’t do anything, but some of them had awful side effects – I experienced hallucinations, paranoia, and seizures.

      But I would still argue that everyone should have the right to decide whether or not treatment is right for them. People should decide that they don’t want to try medication because they have access to information that properly describes the risk (which I understand is very difficult to obtain, and is another thing we must work towards), not because they are ashamed to be mentally ill. Even medication aside, stigma reduces access to therapy, or being able to ask loved ones for help. Not to mention that stigma increases the chance that someone will be coerced into a treatment plan that they don’t want.

    • http://feministing.com/members/azure156/ Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz

      Is the Siwe Project advocating Big Pharma’s solutions as the only means of seeking treatment though? The focus of what I’m reading here seems to be promoting awareness and removing stigma.

      (I’m also a med hater, particularly anti-psychotics, which I came to despise)

    • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

      Given the incredibly strong family support system in the black community, given how many black children are diagnosed and treated with powerful drugs untested on children, I think the people avoiding “mental health treatment” might be better off.

      Y’know, I was just remembering about the time when Black people came together to ask white people what to do about mental health issues in our community…

      Oh, wait…That didn’t happen?

      I’m sorry about all the pain you went through because of your misdiagnosis. But the fact is that not only does the stigma exist among many Black communities, it’s difficult for people to get the treatment they need because of the lack of access. This lack of awareness also contributes to the increased numbers of undiagnosed Black men and women becoming lost in the prison system instead of getting the help they need.

  • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

    I am a Black woman with Anxiety Disorder and Major Depression with Psychosis. #noshame