Mental Health: Stigma and Self-Care

By: Vanessa Madrazo, Ph.D.

I got involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in 2015 following a difficult divorce. This non-profit organization is comprised of individuals, family members, and friends who believe in eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illness. Stigma exists for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that there are no objective tests to diagnose and treat mental illness. This leads people to claim that “it’s all in your head” which only further exacerbates the difficulties that this community deals with. 

In order to eradicate stigma, it’s best to use language that humanizes. For example, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but I would not refer to myself as being “bipolar”. I’d simply say that I have bipolar disorder or I live with bipolar disorder. Referring to someone as bipolar, schizophrenic, or OCD only reduces that person’s contribution to society and stigmatizes their medical condition. We would never say a person is cancer or a person is diabetes which demonstrates how mental illness elicits a very different response from the public when compared to other medical conditions. 

For this reason, it’s important to become educated on topics such as mental health and self-care. Incidence of mental illness has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore, it’s great to develop a toolkit that can be used to develop coping skills. Yes, self-care can mean taking a bubble bath or getting your hair done, but it can also mean maintaining boundaries and saying no when necessary. 

As Latina women, we are often pulled in many directions, and sometimes it’s best to simply take a breath, regroup, and prioritize. Our time is our most precious resource, and we can make the best use of this valuable commodity by asking questions such as what is the most urgent and important task that is most pressing at this time. By taking a step back and giving ourselves some self-compassion, we can cultivate our own mental health while leaving us better equipped to be of service to others. 

This guest blog is written by Vanessa Madrazo, Ph.D., Director at NAMI Miami-Dade in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. She supports the operations of the local charitable non-profit organization in pursuit of its mission to provide education, advocacy, and support to individuals and families affected by mental illness. She became a member of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc. at the Alpha Zeta Alumnae Chapter in Spring 2009.

Connect with Vanessa on Social Media: