Mental Health Hookup, a local organization dedicated to addressing mental health concerns, hosted its second annual Stop the Stigma event Saturday to try and end the stigma surrounding conversations about mental health care for adults.
Attendees were able to bear witness to a lineup of speakers who presented and discussed a wide range of mental health topics, including a student who experienced a fluctuation in his mental health due to the pandemic and leaders in mental health organizations who shared their experiences.
“What we try to do together is create communities,” said Larry Schallert, assistant director of student health and wellness/mental health at College of the Canyons. “Community is what’s really important. No one can do this alone.”
Various organizations and nonprofits were present at resource tables, providing information and answering questions to help support individuals in need.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health has been profound, prompting a heightened recognition of the importance of addressing these issues.
Ryan Liljedahl, a Valencia High School alumnus, shared his personal experience, emphasizing the toll the pandemic has taken on his own mental well-being due to the lack of socialization.
“I think because COVID had lasted so long, it really hurt us with our mental health because we didn’t get that socialization, and all of us are very social people,” said Liljedahl. “It’s part of who we are as human beings, and I know that, personally, my mental health suffered.”
Liljedahl stressed the significance of destigmatizing mental health and promoting open conversations about it.
“I think it’s important that we talk about our mental health and get rid of the stigma like we’re all here to do today,” said Liljedahl. “As these conversations kept going up, and as more and more people realize that there’s this issue of mental health, it allowed us to also feel like it’s OK to not be okay. It’s OK to ask for help and it’s OK to ask for help from your friends, from your family, from professionals. You don’t just have to rely on yourself for help.”
His sentiments were echoed by many others, recognizing that it is essential to encourage individuals to seek help from friends, family and professionals when needed.
Schallert emphasized the collective effort required to address these challenges.
“We try to make sure that people with mental health problems are people first,” said Schallert.
Zee Dankworth spoke to the importance of Schallert’s words, which impacted her personally.
Dankworth’s son was having mental health issues while she was in a point of her that life that she, as she described, “was falling apart.”
Her son was suffering, and she didn’t have the resources.
“I didn’t know anything,” said Dankworth.
Working through his mental health journey, she learned more and more about what to do, how to do it and the importance of understanding. She realized the complexity of mental health, but also gained a newfound purpose.
“Sometimes a crisis presents an opportunity,” said Dankworth.
Dankworth now works as a member and advocate of NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
With the growing recognition and understanding of mental health concerns, events like “Stop the Stigma” have become crucial in normalizing conversations and supporting those who may be struggling. Through collective action and community engagement, strides can be made in creating a society that values and prioritizes mental health, ensuring that individuals receive the support and care they deserve.