News / Health

Organization Works to Overcome Mental Health Stigma

Francine Eager (l) and Julie Herrera
Francine Eager (l) and Julie Herrera
Mike O'Sullivan

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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs