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'Ending The Silence': Getting Past The Stigma Associated With Mental Illness

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Mental health impacts all of us, but it's often hard to talk about.

College sophomore Rachel Lee has struggled with her mental health. In high school, she ended up hospitalized three times. But the hardest part for her was feeling like she had something to hide.

"I'm not crazy," Lee said. "I'm just like anybody else out there. I'm struggling. I'm struggling in my own way. But that doesn't make me any less deserving or any less human."

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.

Clarrissa Taylor-Jackson is with the National Alliance of Mental Illness in Baltimore. She said the negative stigma associated with mental health stems from our society's desire for things to be perfect.

"Whether or not you're diagnosed with a mental health condition, you are impacted by mental health. Every single one of us has experienced anxiety or depression at some point during this pandemic," she said. "It's important for all of us to be more attentive to our own mental health and wellness."

Taylor-Jackson's brother Damian was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder two years ago, and she wishes her family had known about it earlier.

"If our parents were more open, the schools were more open, and our society was more open, he probably would have gotten help a lot sooner," she said.

Fighting the stigma starts with an open, honest conversation. Lee volunteers with NAMI's "Ending the Silence" program, and talks with teenagers about their mental health.

"I may not be able to understand what you're going through 100 percent, but I care about you," she said. "I care about how you're doing. Let me know how I can be here for you."

She said have empathy for one another, show compassion, and know that it's okay to not always be okay.

If you want to learn more about NAMI Metropolitan Baltimore or need help, visit the group's website.


Special Coverage: Talking Mental Health Awareness

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