PLANTATION, Florida. – Mental illness affects 1 in 4 Americans, bringing with it a stigma that disproportionately affects many minorities.
For much of her life, Robena Richardson lived with depression and severe social anxiety.
“I had a hard time perceiving the world around me and taking it in, so what I did kind of entered into myself,” Richardson said.
She turned to photography as a way to escape the voices in the mind and connect, if only for a moment, with the real world around her.
Getting closer to nature also gave Richardson greater insight into what she was experiencing, she said.
“I think it’s time for us to consider within the black community the fear of the language being used around mental illness,” she said.
That’s what the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, is for.
Dr. Sandra Cumper Boyton is Executive Director of NAMI’s Broward Chapter.
“There is an inequity in mental health that we are not seeing or given or promoted within black communities,” Boyton said.
The organization aims to encourage the black community to let go of stigma and seek help from trained professionals.
“African Americans would rather talk to a pastor or a neighbor than to a professional. At the end of the day, mental health is real, people recover from mental illness and they need to be educated about it,” Boyton said.
Richardson eventually trained as a peer counselor and mentor at NAMI Broward and helped others overcome their mental health issues.
“It reinforces to me that only my existence is my value,” she said.
The NAMI organization includes more than 30 affiliates and 2,000 members throughout the state of Florida.
For more information, visit namibroward.org.
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