Saturday, April 10, 2021

NEWSPAPER PUBLISHED WEEKLY ON THURSDAY

COMMENTARY: Stigma & Mental Health

Submitted By: Senaida Rangel

When starting this article I was unsure of where to begin or what would get people’s attention.

What will help people to understand that mental health is not just something that the poor struggle with or minorities; it is something that touches everyone. Having said that, I think the best way to approach this is by sharing my experience.

When getting my B.S. in Psychology I had no interest in working “those crazy people.” I thought I could work with children, but soon realized it wasn’t as simple as helping them access resources, it goes much deeper than that.

I didn’t recognize my own stigmas until a job at an inpatient psychiatric health facility (PHF) found me. I worked in two PHF’s and a group home for children for almost five years, needless to say I learned so much about the clients and more importantly myself.

I met people from all over the world, various ages, professions, and whatever else you can think of. I also realized that mental illness can present itself in many ways and is not always easily recognizable.

Out of all the people I met, one person in particular I will never forget. He was a young man in his early thirties. He arrived at our facility because he had a plan to jump off a bridge and end his life.

He was originally from the Midwest and moved to Palm Springs, California just a few years prior.

He had been working at the local subway and tried living in an apartment, but did not like the feeling of being confined to such a structured way of living. Rather he preferred to live outdoors and had decided to live under a bridge. After having $5,000 stolen from him, he started to see the world differently. He also began to see himself differently. He believed that if he were to end his life nothing bad would ever happen to him and that he would be “indestructible”.

I found that there was no talking him out of it; he was in and out of our facility over the next few months before finally jumping off the bridge and ending his life.

Over the five years of working in such a facility, I met a lot of people that I would never see again. Individuals who the world would never see again and whose family and friends would be missing. I have realized now that I may not be able to “save” everyone, but I have now made it my duty to reach out to as many people as possible in regard to this issue.

We all experience trauma and have thoughts of ending it all because that would be so much easier than going through the pains of life. Yet, despite feeling this way, we don’t reach out and talk about those pains. Instead many of us suffer alone for fear of being stigmatized as “crazy” or “stupid” for having such thoughts. If we all take the time to reach out to one another, you may find that many of us have a lot more in common than we thought.

So now I ask you, when was the last time you reached out? What are you going to do to help reduce stigma so that people are more comfortable with getting help?

One way is to attend an upcoming event on Saturday, May 16, called Moving Miles for Minds, hosted by Colusa County Department of Behavioral Health. Registration begins at 8:30am and the race starts at 10am.

Colusa County community members will be able to participate in a 5k run/walk through Colusa to bring awareness to mental health and learn how to reduce stigma and discrimination in our community.

For more information please contact Senaida Rangel (MHSA Coordinator/Grant Writer) at (530)458-0520 or srangel@countyofcolusa.org.

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