Taraji P. Henson
Taraji P. Henson (Courtesy of the Defender Network)

D.C.’s own Taraji P. Henson and DeWanda Wise are just a couple of the many celebrities lending their support to increase mental health awareness.

Henson, star of the hit television show “Empire,” and Wise, the star of Netflix’s reprisal of Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It,” are a part of a campaign from the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI).

The District-based organization has launched #CureStigma, a campaign to raise awareness for the 1 in 5 adults living with a mental health condition.

“What better time to do this than during the month of May, which has been designated Mental Health Awareness Month,” said Sandra Cofield, a Northeast personal trainer who suffers from a form of mental illness. “To have celebrities — well-known celebrities — join in and support this cause is tremendous because it does kind of lessens the stigma and affords your everyday person to come forward with whatever problem they might be dealing with privately.”

According to statistics provided by NAMI, African Americans sometimes experience more severe forms of mental health conditions due to unmet needs and other barriers. The Health and Human Services office of Minority Health reported that African Americans are 20 percent more likely to experience mental health problems than the general population.

Several public service announcements this month include NAMI’s celebrity ambassadors such as actors Andrea Barber, Jamie Gray Hyder, Clark Gregg, Maurice Benard and Utkarsh Ambudkar, former WWE star AJ Mendez, sports commentator Mauro Ranallo and singer-songwriter Stolar.

Throughout the month, NAMI expects that more celebrity ambassadors will post their own “cures” for stigma on social media, encouraging their followers to visit www.curestigma.org and see if they’re “infected” themselves.

“In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, join me in finding a cure for stigma,” Mendez says in her public service announcement. “Stigma is a virus that prevents people from seeking help. So get tested at CureStigma.org and help save lives.”

From a public service announcement promoting the involvement of Wise:

“When a loved one is diagnosed with a mental health condition, many of us wonder what we may have done to cause their diagnosis. The lovely DeWanda Wise reminds us that we shouldn’t play the blame game. Help #CureStigma today at curestigma.org.”

In another announcement from champion MMA fighter Frank Shamrock, the fighter offers a blunt assessment of stigma and what others should do: “Stigma promotes an environment of shame, fear and silence. This Mental Health Month, help #CureStigma.”

For more information about the campaign, go to curestigma.org. For more information about NAMI, go to nami.org.

Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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1 Comment

  1. Mental Health Awareness:

    Be aware of everyone directing a stigma at mental illnesses, and keep them at arms length. They do harm.

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