In his recent TED Talk video entitled “There’s no shame in taking care of your mental health,” Sangu Delle candidly discusses the complexities of mental illness and reflects upon his evolving perceptions of its treatment.  Born in Ghana, Delle attended the Peddie School as a high school student and earned both his undergraduate (B.A. in African Studies and Economics) and graduate (J.D. and MBA) degrees at Harvard University.  Prior to encountering the term “mental health,” Delle was familiar with the well-established stereotypes associated with mental illness.

Aware of the implications of its stigma, he avoided confronting issues as they arose and was reluctant to seek professional assistance.  His perception of mental illness dramatically shifted, however, after his close friend was diagnosed with schizophrenia.  Following the diagnosis, he witnessed his friend quickly lose support as they became a social pariah; this response inspired Delle to become involved in mental health advocacy and education.

During his journey, Delle realized that mental illness does not discriminate against those whom it afflicts. Stereotypes, stigma, and prejudice transcend geographical borders and cultural differences; they universally distort our perception of mental illness and obstruct our willingness to seek and provide support for those who need it most.

By establishing a discourse about mental health issues, education yields the power to eliminate misconceptions about mental illness thus reducing the impact of stigma and associated behaviors.  Increased public awareness can inspire demands for mental healthcare parity and access to adequate treatment.  Remembering our shared humanity can embolden us to treat others with respect and compassion so that we no longer have to suffer alone in silence and isolation.  Unity, not division,  can make all the difference.

Watch the video at:

– Noelle Snyder, MHANYS Intern, Marist College

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