Barbie’s Story

There is no shame in getting help when you need it.

The stigma surrounding mental illness has decreased significantly in recent years, but it undoubtedly still exists. Many people hesitate to admit that they are struggling, scared of being judged by others, or thought of as weak. Unfortunately, ignoring mental health issues rarely makes them go away. Instead, we need to strive to create a culture where mental health is discussed openly and honestly so that anyone who needs help is not ashamed to ask for it. M

Dr. Kathryn Hopfensperger, a psychiatrist with Volunteers of America, says that the stigma surrounding mental health stops people from getting the help they need. “Fear, misunderstanding, and shame are huge barriers for people to seek treatment,” she explains

Barbie certainly felt that barrier when she needed help. “People think it’s bad to say ‘I have mental health problems,’” she says. “I thought it meant that I was less-than, or weak. But it’s the same as if I broke my arm or my leg and it needed a cast. My mind and my heart needed a cast to heal from everything that was going on.”

Like many, Barbie’s mental health problems were exacerbated by a tragedy in her life. After her young granddaughter was murdered, she could not see a future for herself. “I’ve been depressed all my life,” Barbie says. “But I was angry. I could no longer think, I couldn’t do anything. It was paralyzing.”

Convinced that there was no other way out of her pain, Barbie attempted to take her own life. She spent five days in the ICU and was connected with the mental health resources available at Volunteers of America. She has discovered what it feels like to take care of her mental health and to work on healing from the trauma of her past.

At Volunteers of America, a team of people including peer specialists, therapists, case managers, nurses, and others work together to help each client along their unique mental health journey. This team approach allows for a broader range of expertise in each case and ensures that the client feels heard and empowered as they undergo the tough task of working on their mental wellness.

We encourage you to remember the importance of mental health. Check-in with those around you and, more importantly, check in with yourself. Evaluate how your mental health is impacting your life, for better or worse, and be sure you know the resources that are available to help should a mental health crisis arise.

Barbie found hope at Volunteers of America. She learned the importance of taking care of her mental health and got the support she needed to work through the struggles she was facing. More importantly, she learned that there is no shame in asking for help. We hope that we can work together to create a culture that values mental health care and encourages people to seek help when they need it with no shame attached.

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