LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — July is Black, indigenous, people of color mental health awareness month and to show support, the Lexington chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) held a block party.
The path to mental health care can be a long and lonely journey for some. For Jennifer Giles, that journey started more than 20 years ago.
"I grew up if you went to church, you prayed about it, and that's how you were delivered, not go to the doctor," said Giles.
She was 24 and serving in the armed services overseas. But before she could make an impact, she was sent home due to an injury. Giles and her daughter were forced to move in with her mother.
"I became very suicidal and just did not feel like I had a purpose in life. I didn't," said Giles.
After fighting with herself and feeling judged, she realized she needed help. Eventually, she sought therapy and treatment. However, she did so in silence due to stigmatization.
Since receiving help, Giles has spent her life helping others so they don't have to go through what she did- alone. She now organizes events for people of color as the chair of NAMI Lexington's Multicultural Action Committee.
"Just putting a face with mental health makes a world of a difference," said Giles.
Her story and the historic stigma is one of the reasons Minority Mental Health Month-now, called Black, Indigenous People of Color Month, was created by Bebe Moore Campbell in 2008.
"When, of course, it got close I was like, 'Oh my gosh, we need to do something, I don't care what it is,'" said Giles.
They decided on a block party at the Participation Station, which is a peer-run, peer-operated center for people with mental illnesses.
"This place has really changed my life. I got friends here. I met people here that I love, and I couldn't do nothing without this program," said Linda Garth.
While the overall rate of suicide in the U.S. decreased by 3% in 2020, the rate of suicide among people of color and young people increased, according to the CDC.
NAMI reports that in 2021, more Black adults attempted suicide than any other racial or ethnic group. Data also revealed that when compared to those in other racial/ethnic backgrounds, Asian Americans are least likely to receive mental treatment.
"What I hope is by being here, by having today, we're making a little noise out there," said Kelly Gunning, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy.