Michaela Angela Davis

is real. Every day, you are either meeting with, having lunch with, exchanging glances with or you are passing on the street hundreds of people who present a picture of normalcy but who are in fact suffering from some form of mental illness.

And this is what makes the illness so dangerous: It is destroying peoples lives silently every day, because the vast majority of people suffering from the illness manage to find clever ways to mask it– even from themselves. Or there are those who know they have a problem, but the stigma attached to mental illness prevents them from getting help. But untreated mental illness, like any other sickness, gets worse, not better.

Here are a few facts from the National Alliance on Mental Illness about the prevalence of the disease in the United States:

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million (18.5%) experiences mental illness in a given year. 
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.
  • 2.6% of adults in the U.S. live with bipolar disorder.
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as post traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and specific phobias.

Further, according to a 2011 study by the Center for Diseases Control, African Americans and Hispanics living below the poverty level are three times more likely to report psychological distress.

To confront the debilitating effect of mental illness– particularly in Brooklyn’s low income communities– on Monday, at Brooklyn Community Services (BCS) will host , a panel discussion and Mental Health Resource Hub moderated by BET and CNN correspondent Michaela Angela Davis.

Brooklyn Stand Up! Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness is designed to raise public awareness, inspire dialogue, connect attendees to resources, and strengthen community support of those living with a mental illness. A group of distinguished panelists will discuss symptoms and access to treatment, myths about mental illness, crisis response, available resources and services, and practical advice to support friends and family members who are dealing with someone with a mental illness.

The panel will be followed by access to the Mental Health Resource Hub, where attendees can gain access to information and consult with mental health professionals. In addition, the hub will have information on holistic methods in modifying stress: yoga, gardening, exercise, diet and more.

The panelists include: Terrie Williams, MSW, award-winning public relations executive and author of Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting on the impact mental illness on the African-American community; Alistair Blake, Psychotherapist and Program Director of BCS Metro Club PROS; Wendy Brennan, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) NYC Metro; Megan Crowe-Rothstein, Director of Social Work at the Urban Justice Center Mental Health Project; Kenneth J. Dudek, President of Fountain House and Suzanne M.L. Colin, Ph.D., Psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine and former President of the Association of Hispanic Mental Health Professionals (AHMHP).

“African Americans need less silence in our families about mental illness and more education and access to affordable services in our communities. There are many historic and systemic reasons why Blacks don’t seek mental health services, but I am hopeful that this generation will seize the moment and break the cycle of stigma,” said Davis. “The most powerful thing we can do is let go of the shame, share our stories and seek support.”

This event is FREE to the public and will be held on March 28 at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, from 5:00pm – 8:00pm. For more information and to register for Brooklyn Stand Up! Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness, go here.  

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