By Ralph E. Moore Jr.,
Special to the AFRO

October is National Depression Awareness Month, providing an opportunity for all to check in on their mental and emotional health. Don’t let anybody shame you or make you feel bad if you get help from a professional counselor or take medication for an emotional or mental health issue. You’re not crazy, you’re being wise.  

Some folks think there is something wrong with getting counseling; they dismiss that form of self-care as reducing one in self-esteem, self-worth or self-respect. Fortunately, negative attitudes or stigmas about counseling are diminishing.

The stigma attached to mental health treatment results in silence, when the opposite– actively talking about the situation and supports needed–should be taking place.  We all need to be talking more about mental health and how to maintain it or how to better it. The more it is talked about in society the more it will be seen as normal and less stigmatizing. Mental health issues can be treated with medication, therapy or self-care in 2023.

Yet, there is still much that is unknown about mental health.  The Cleveland Clinic’s website quotes psychiatrist Dr. Douglas McLaughlin as saying, “Mental health is this cauldron of unknown conditions.” Sometimes the reasons behind a mental health condition such as an imbalance in hormones or a gland disorder such as the thyroid or even the brain can be easily identified by a professional.

But another complication is that those, in the public, might be reluctant to disclose depression or anxiety for fear of how it might affect a job or a relationship with family members, friends or neighbors. Still, the more the conversation we have about depression, the more society becomes aware that patients with help can successfully manage mental health issues. There is help and hope for everyone with mental health issues and those people associated with those in treatment. 

But it wasn’t always that way. Dr. McLaughlin, quoted on the Cleveland Clinic’s website on June 2, 2020, in reference to the growing interest in mental health, reminds us people with mental health issues didn’t always receive the care they needed. 

“We mistreated people, we misunderstood people, and we didn’t have good treatment options,” says McLaughlin. But now things have improved.

So, we’ve come a long way, but there is still some way to go.

The stigma of mental health treatment is dissipating and a way to keep it moving out of existence is to engage those with mental illness with their peers. Other people with mental illness with folks feel less alone and help the feeling of being stigmatized by others go away. 

There are three main organizations I recommend when it comes to mental health resources: The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), The Black Mental Health Alliance (BMHA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA). 

To contact the Metropolitan Baltimore chapter of NAMI, call 410-435-2600 or via email at  Their office is located at 2601 N. Howard Street. The Black Mental Health Alliance  can be reached at (410) 338-2642 and via their website at BMHA is Baltimore-based, but offers resources on a national scale. Veterans can receive information about mental health supports by calling the 800-698-2411. The line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Stigmas against mental or emotional illness are just like any other form of prejudice and discrimination such as those based on race, gender, income or religion.  It’s time to say out loud: stigma toward mental illness is just plain wrong.