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Bridging the divide: mental health stigma

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Posted at 3:49 PM, Dec 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-03 23:05:23-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — The holiday season can be a trying time when it comes to mental health. Between remembering loved ones who've passed, or feelings of loneliness during the holidays.

As difficult feelings pop up, over the years mental health stigmas have changed.

"I was really selective when I was 25 about who I told about it," Ray Cameron, who was diagnosed with depression in his twenties said, "I had three people who understood it and could support me and a wife who didn't understand it, and it was really an impact on her too," Cameron said.

Cameron, now in his fifties, spends part of his time volunteering for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) in Colorado Springs.

Years later he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and as he's become open about his struggles over the years, he said he still finds challenges in talking about it.

"It seems like it should be easier for me and it's not always," Cameron said, "you take that culturally and I think, you look around, and I think it is improving but at the same time if somebody who's committed to [being] open about it still kind of self stigmatizes then what's it going to be like outside and so it makes it understandable that it's a tough topic and it's got a lot of ways to go," Cameron said.

When Cameron was first diagnosed, he admits having a hard time opening up about his struggle, especially in the workplace.

"As I grew in my career what happened is my fear of somebody finding out grew, no one ever told me that if they found out I had depression I'd get fired but I sure, I sure, worried about," Cameron said.

Tamara Cannafax, who also volunteers for NAMI, said she struggled in her twenties to explain her mental health challenges.

Some of the challenges came from talking to her family about it, "historically our culture has been to kind of reject the idea of mental health or at least not really seek any help out for it," Cannafax said.

Cannafax eventually posted about her experience with mental illness on social media, she said the response was encouraging.

"I had a lot of people who were just really supportive, I had a lot of people private message me," Cannafax said.

Both Cannafax's and Cameron's experiences detail a shift in the way society views mental health. Both agree the pandemic has brought on more conversations about struggling and the need for resources.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with mental health challenges, there are several local resources for help.

NAMI Colorado Springs:

Diversus Health: