Expert's tips amid Mental Health Awareness Month – Spectrum News

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — How are you doing? How are you really doing?
It’s a question experts say we should not only be asking ourselves, but also our loved ones, as May is Mental Health Awareness Month.
But, as Kathy Rogers, the executive director of Mental Health America of Central Carolinas points out, it’s really a topic that should be discussed at all times.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five U.S. adults experienced a mental illness in 2021. And the ripple effect is eye-opening.
The research points to higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, substance abuse, unemployment and more.
Rogers says stigma is one of the biggest barriers to people seeking help for their mental health.
“There continues to be shame and blame, discrimination, around mental health. We need to be able to talk about our mental health just as we would our physical health. You know, none of us have a problem talking about our high blood pressure or diabetes,” Rogers said. “It’s no different being able to talk about a mental health diagnosis. And there is no shame or blame in seeking help. We cannot take this head off of our bodies. It’s all connected.”
The other thing Rogers hopes to combat is the stigma surrounding mental health illness among communities of color.
NAMI research says only 36% of Hispanic or Latino adults and only 39% of African American or Black adults received mental health services in 2021, compared with 52% of white adults.
On March 8, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a $1 billion behavioral health investment plan, in hopes of expanding behavioral health care across North Carolina and addressing disparities for racial and ethnic minorities.
“During the pandemic, we saw disparities not only in physical health and mental health among communities of color, but these really were disparities that already existed in historically marginalized communities,” Rogers said.
“The color of your skin, the ZIP code you live in, all of these things should not matter. Everyone should have equal access to the care that they need,” she said. 
Mental health does not discriminate on race or age; the data says 17% of youth between the ages of 6 to 17 years old also experience some kind of mental health-related challenge in their life.
You can find a list of free resources, including mental health screenings, on MHA’s website here.
If you or a loved one is ever experiencing a mental health crisis, you can call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.