“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
As I looked across the theatre at the nearly 80 people gathered to learn how to address the stigma of mental illness, these words of Mother Teresa came to my mind.
The speaker and panelists who came to participate in The Secrets We Keep: De-stigmatizing Mental Illness* are people who have done great things for the cause of mental health. But also with us were those who suffer with mental illnesses and others who care for loved ones. Their days are filled with small things of great love—all done under the cloud of stigma.
What are small things of love we can all do to address the issue of stigma? Here are some of the comments made by our panelists:
- Recognize that mental illness is an illness, a dysfunction of the brain that has a biological foundation.
- Express that “it’s okay to not be okay” when someone is having a hard time.
- Talk openly and without shame about your own or your family’s challenges.
- Listen when others do open up about their struggles, and don’t judge.
- It’s okay to not know what to do, but learn and grow in awareness and empathy.
At The Well Community I regularly see the impact stigma has on our members, but I also see the lasting blessings that come when people in the community step up to learn and to care. I believe the Oak Cliff community and the greater Dallas area are better places today because more of us now know better ways to help destigmatize mental illnesses and those who suffer with them.
*The Secrets We Keep: Destigmatizing Mental Illness was the first event sponsored by the newly formed Well Auxiliary. It was co-sponsored by The Bishop Arts Theatre in partnership with NAMI Dallas.
The featured speaker was ReShonda Tate Billingsley, author of the book and TV One movie, The Secret She Kept, and panelists included Senior Corporal Herbert Cotner, Behavioral Health Liaison with the Dallas Police Department; Sherry Cusumano, President of NAMI Dallas; and Brian Cuban, bestselling author and mental health awareness advocate.