The DC region had its first big check-up of the year at the 2015 NBC4 Health & Fitness Expo, Jan. 10 and 11 at the Washington Convention Center.
For the first time, the expo’s focus extended to include resources for mental health. For decades, the Black community has held a common consensus on the topic: Blacks don’t suffer from mental illnesses.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
“They do, just like any medical condition like cancer or diabetes.” Leslie Barber, volunteer teacher at the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), said.
As the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization, NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, support and research for those suffering with mental health issues.
Nearly 60 million Americans experience a mental health condition every year. Among the most serious mental illnesses are major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, panic disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.
NAMI’s Prince George’s County, Md. affiliate location serves as “the county’s voice on mental illness,” and services hundreds of families each year. Free courses take place across the county in Bowie, Mitchellville, Capitol Heights, Clinton, New Carrollton, Oxon Hill, and Hyattsville. Geared toward those who suffer from mental health issues as well as family members and caregivers of these individuals, courses address facts about mental illness diagnosis, dealing with critical periods during each illness, new research in mental health, problem solving techniques, communication skills, and more.
Barber once participated in a course, and is now trained to teach NAMI’s Family-to-Family Education Course. She attended the expo to spread the word about services. “We had a very good turnout, a lot of people stopped by to get information,” she said.
The expo also included a larger pavilion with information and education on mental health – part of NBC4’s year-long project on mental health, called Changing Minds, to shine a light on the subject by providing education, information and hope, according to the site’s homepage. “It can affect anyone at any time. It doesn’t discriminate by age, race, gender, or income.”