Meridian Star

July 15, 2012

Voices of Hope marks National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

By Marie John / The Meridian Star
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     The Third Annual Voices of Hope program will focus on aspects of minority mental health as part of the observance of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month.

    The program will be from 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, at New Canaan Baptist Church, 2822 26th St., Meridian.

     The free event will feature speakers who will address minority mental health from multiple perspectives, including as parents, caregivers, mental health providers and advocates. Pre-registration is not required and the public is encouraged to attend.

    The diagnosis of a child with a mental health disorder can be devastating, even when that diagnosis turns out to be incorrect, according to Marshia Moody, a parent who is one of the featured speakers and the Family Involvement Specialist at NFusionX, a program for adolescents and young adults ages 14-21.

    “In our case, I needed to get beyond the diagnosis to understand what our child was experiencing,” said Moody. “After the initial shock, I went to work finding out more and having additional assessments. That was so important, because we learned that our daughter, then a toddler, did not have the disorder with which she was diagnosed.”

    “We may sometimes find ourselves in communities and families that are not supportive,” said Moody, who added that lack of knowledge about mental health and behavioral disorders contribute to stigma and continue to be barriers to early intervention and treatment, especially in the African-American community.

    “We have a choice to take the initiative for our precious children and our families, regardless of the attitudes and obstacles we may encounter” said Moody.

    Combating stigma as well as providing education, support and advocacy are among the principal goals of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI Mississippi Executive Director Tonya Tate is one of the featured speakers.

    Minority groups often have different approaches when there is an emotional or behavioral disorder, said Tate.

    “Experiences of mental illness vary across cultures,” said Tate. “There is a need for improved cultural awareness and competence in the health care and mental health workforce.”

    The third speaker is Toniya Lay, a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and a therapist at Choctaw Behavioral Health, who will speak about multi-cultural aspects of mental health as a therapist and caregiver.

    For more information about “Voices of Hope,” call Pace Cooke Emmons at Weems Community Mental Health Center, (601) 483-4821.

    Sponsors of the program are the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Meridian Affiliate, NAMI Mississippi Chapter, Choctaw Behavioral Health, Alliance Health Center and Weems Community Mental Health Center.