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NAMI: Mental Health Awareness Month, breaking the stigma

May is recognized as National Mental Health Month, a time where organizations continue to educate and advocate about mental health.
Published: May. 4, 2021 at 5:19 PM CDT
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QUAD CITIES (KWQC) - May is recognized as National Mental Health Month, a time where organizations continue to educate and advocate about mental health. TV6 spoke with an organization on how they’re continuing to fight the stigma and one young woman who’s using her platform to speak up.

Throughout the month NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is holding events for the occasion.

“May is a great time to show your support of people who are living with mental illness and their families. We want to end the stigma that surrounds mental illness because the average person goes 10 years without a diagnosis because of the stigma,” said Christina McNamara-Schmidt, the Development Manager at NAMI. “We want people to understand that it’s not a personality flaw. It is a disease just like cancer or diabetes, and it’s something that can be treated and you can recover.”

McNamara-Schmidt said it’s okay to talk about mental health.

“We support a program called Make It Ok to help people recognize the signs and the symptoms of mental illness and make people feel like it’s okay to reach out for help,” she said.

The month of May is significant for Bettendorf native, Mariah Martinez.

“Starting the month right away just in that emotion and just really feeling like, I can do something with the story of my mental health, and also my brothers,” she said.

The first of May is the anniversary of her brother Frank’s passing after he took his own life. Now, she uses her platform as Miss Henry County to talk about mental health.

“I just spoke to my parents. I was like, hey, I need help. I’m having really bad thoughts. I’m sad. I’m really down on myself a lot,” she said, “I started therapy. I also was doing therapy along with that I was going to resources around the community.”

NAMI and Martinez are continuing to combat the stigma and advocating beyond the month of May.

“Just like anything else, it’s more treatable if it’s diagnosed early, and we hope that people are not afraid to talk about it, and that our programming helps those efforts,” McNamara-Schmidt said.

“It’s important to keep advocating for yourself and keep pushing because you’re important and I want people to know that you matter,” Martinez said.

You can learn more about NAMI and the services they offer on their website.

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