District physicians work hard to fight the stigma associated with mental health and do their part to open doors for education. The American Psychiatric Association held its first Community Mental Health Fair at Howard University on Saturday.
Kent Wilson-el recalls a trauma from his childhood.
“I lost my parents. I lost my mother. I lost my sister,” he said.
He carried the weight of that loss for years, resulting in “anger, frustration, anxiety.”
Today, Wilson-el’s condition would be called post-traumatic stress disorder, but at the time, the prevailing attitude was “heal yourself.”
Now he is working to help heal others in similar circumstances through outreach and peer counseling with Howard University’s Department of Community and Family Medicine.
His booth was one of many resources available Saturday at the Community Mental Health Fair in the plaza of Howard University Hospital.
Dr. Regina James is with the American Psychiatric Association, and they’ve partnered with Howard University Hospital “to raise mental health awareness, destigmatizing mental health, especially for communities of color,” a- she declared.
Part of raising awareness is learning to recognize the signs, which can be subtle.
“Maybe change your sleep, sleep more, sleep less, eat more, eat less, [being] a little more irritable,” James said.
Physical health and mental health are inextricably linked, but they are heavy topics for a Saturday fair. The goal was to lighten the approach to dealing with these issues, whether it be with music, food, exercise and water on a hot day, to keep people warm. comfortable with mental health.
It is better to bring people to this place to have a good time, than to make them make a critical visit to the emergency room.
“We have our team of experts from Howard who are here to address addiction issues. There’s a big stigma about it, about the substances people use and the link to mental illness,” said the Dr. Danielle Hairston, director of the psychology program at Howard University Medical School.
The fair only lasted a few hours, but the mission is year-round and holistic.
“If you don’t have transportation, if you don’t have a place to stay, if you don’t have food, your goal is not to get well or to go to appointments. you medical,” Dr. Finie Richardson, of the Howard University Urban Health Initiative, said.
“That’s what we’re trying to do. Reach out to different communities, different age groups, let them know it’s okay,” James said.
And it’s OK to get help. Peer counselor Wilson-el is living proof of that.
“It’s my gift,” he said.