News / Health

    Organization Works to Overcome Mental Health Stigma

    Francine Eager (l) and Julie Herrera
    Francine Eager (l) and Julie Herrera

    Millions of Americans struggle with depression and other mental health conditions.  Experts say the stigma surrounding mental illness is the biggest obstacle that keeps people from getting treatment.  A non-profit agency is helping through its mental health centers, and recently honored community leaders who are working to overcome the stigma.

    Kita Curry heads the large organization called Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, named after an early supporter of the private agency.  Founded in 1942, the charity has 11 centers in and around Los Angeles, and employs 400 people, including social workers, counselors and therapists.  Curry says that like many of those the organization serves, she takes medication for depression.

    “Now people would assume, oh no, you can not be depressed," said Curry. "You are the CEO of a big agency and you always seem to be so up and so energetic, but the truth is, I do.  And if I do not talk about it, then the stereotype once again remains that it is a shameful, embarrassing thing, a hopeless condition.”

    Curry says half of Americans will experience mental illness in their lifetimes - depression, anxiety, or other psychological problems.  Some conditions are mild and others are moderate.  U.S. government statistics say one in twenty Americans has a serious disorder, and that figure does not include people with addictions.  

    Those who work in the mental health field say help is available, and that part of their mission is educating the public.  The Didi Hirsch Center recently honored public figures for doing that, including actor Ed Harris and young film producers Logan and Noah Miller.  In their movie Touching Home, Logan and Noah told the story of their father, who struggled with mental illness and died homeless and alone in a jail cell.  Harris played the leading role, and the twin brother costarred in the film, as well as directing and writing it.

    Another honoree was entrepreneur Jamie Masada, who founded the Hollywood comedy club The Laugh Factory.  Masada provides holiday meals for the homeless, works with underprivileged  children, and recently started a therapy program for comedians.

    “They go up there, they help everybody," said Masada. "They get everybody laughing.  Laughter is a healer, heal everybody.  But everybody forget about the comedian.”

    He says more than 80 comics have signed up for the therapy program.

    Those who work the in the field of mental health say help is available, once a diagnosis is made, and that approaches include medication, individual therapy and group counseling.  They say the treatment must be tailored to an individual's needs.

    The Didi Hirsch centers helped 70,000 people last year, including Francine Eager, who works at a center as a peer counselor.

    “I suffer from depression," said Eager. "My diagnosis originally started off as manic depression because there would be times I would go wild about certain things lose control.  And then I also had a drug addiction at the time, so it kind of masked my depression.  And when it all failed and I had to crash, it woke my up and made me see that I needed some help.”

    More than 30,000 people in the United States commit suicide each year, and many more try unsuccessfully to take their lives.  The Didi Hirsch Center is one of many groups that operate telephone hot lines that offer help.  

    Julie Herrera has experienced those self-destructive feelings, but she says that with therapy, medication and support, she is coping with her problems at the center.

    “I just felt like I was alone out there, on my own," said Herrera. "Finally, when I came here,  I got a therapist, I got on the right meds [medications] finally.  It's like a family here that I can relate to, you know?”  

    Former U.S. congressman Patrick Kennedy has struggled with mental illness and addiction.  The eight-term member of Congress is the son of the late Massachusetts senator Edward Kennedy and nephew of President John Kennedy.  Today, he is an advocate for increased scientific research into brain disorders, which he says will help us better understand psychiatric problems.  Kennedy was also among those honored for their work on mental health.

    “The bottom line is that every American family has a child with autism, an parent with Alzheimer's, a cousin with Parkinson's, a brother, sister with addiction, depression, it's all brain-based," said Kennedy.

    Mental health advocates say there is help for those with psychological problems, just as there are effective treatments for the physically ill.  They say the challenge is helping people understand that mental health conditions are nothing to be ashamed of.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Spanish Warrants Point to Russian Govt. Links to Organized Crime

    Links to several Russians, some of them reputedly close Putin associates, backed by ‘very strong evidence,’ Spanish judge says

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    Iraq needs stable, central government to push back against Islamic State, US says, but others warn that Baghdad may not have unified front any time soon

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora