Voices to address the silence

Voices to address the silence

In a world where stigma often shrouds discussions of mental health, a presentation on ending the silence and fostering open dialogue, understanding and support was brought to the Pierce community.

Last week the Student Health Center at Pierce College partnered with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to organize an event called “Ending the Silence” with presentation speakers Danielle Brahinsky and James Wolff. 

James Wolff speaks to the audience about mental health in LLC 5111 at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif. on March 20, 2024. Photo by Icy Smith.

Brahisky talked about how children and teenagers do not always receive treatment for their mental illness. 

“It is important to never give up hope,” Brahinsky said. 

Research from NAMI finds that 22.8 percent of U.S. adults—representing one in five adults—experienced mental illness in 2021. Among U.S. youth aged 6-17, 16.5 percent experienced a mental health disorder in 2016, according to NAMI. 

A June 2020 CDC (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) survey reported that almost 41 percent of Americans were struggling with mental health issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the CNN article, “Americans are not getting the mental health treatment they need, report says.” These issues included depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. 

Brahinsky also discussed how the negative stigma around mental health causes people not to  speak up. 

“People tend to believe that those mental health conditions are dangerous, violent, crazy. And this is an example of stigma,” Brahinsky said “Stigma can be hurtful, it can make people feel ashamed and criticize, leading to not seeking help.” 

Wolff helps lead support groups Saturday through Monday every week via Zoom through National Alliance on Mental Illness in San Fernando Valley. 

He talked about how losing his father at three-years-old played a significant part of his mental health as he became a teenager. 

“As a child after my dad’s death, I displayed rapid onset of language disorders, depression, and memory issues,” Wolff said. “My first two diagnoses were depression and generalized anxiety. Depression to me was not feeling things.” 

Ozzy Portillo, a student services assistant, was in attendance for the event and spoke about the importance of mental health awareness. 

“Mental health awareness is important because if we’re not aware of how people could be suffering different symptoms that you may be experiencing, there’s no way to get help,” Portillo said.

Wolff closed with a message to the audience about having grace for those that suffer from mental illness and providing help for them. 

“Never underestimate the power of being gracious towards someone who is suffering,” Wolff said. 

If you are someone who is currently experiencing mental health issues, there are resources available at the LAPC Student Health Center, www.lapc.edu/student-services/spr/health-center, and NAMI San Fernando Valley, www.namisfv.org/.  

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