In our ongoing #MentalHealthAwareness series, Ruban Roberts, MBA, MSW, Founder, and CEO of Amplify Community Resources and RER Consulting Enterprise, LLC, addresses a persistent challenge—stigmatizing mental health. “Stigma remains one of the most challenging obstacles to effectively addressing mental health issues at the community level,” Roberts states. Despite advancements in understanding mental health, stigmas rooted in cultural and social environments persist, sometimes leading to devastating consequences. This article explores practical ways to foster understanding, support, and create a path to wellness to overcome these barriers.

Ending Cultural Stigmas by Embracing Vulnerability

Cultural stigma often takes the form of “strength archetypes,” namely the glorification of strength, stoicism, and spiritual faith as hallmarks of resilience while displaying emotional vulnerability as a character flaw, weakness, or faithlessness. According to Roberts, “In many cultures, showing vulnerability is erroneously seen as a weakness, not as a critical part of the human experience.” This mindset significantly impacts individuals experiencing anxiety, stress, or depression from acknowledging or seeking support.

During the pandemic, the visibility of mental health issues increased as public figures, including elite athletes and movie stars, began discussing their struggles openly. Our initiative included developing a Mental Health & Wellness Scorecard in response to this trend. The Scorecard provided an evidence-informed assessment for program participants to gauge their levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and support.  Upon receiving their Scorecards, our Care Coordination Team connected participants with necessary mental health resources.

To better understand the issue of stigma in relation to culture, we often addressed the topic on our weekly webcast, #WellnessWednesdays. One episode that stands out during the series featured a prominent pastor whose ministry successfully integrated faith with professional mental health support, demonstrating that religious beliefs and therapeutic intervention could coexist. It was an eye-opening discussion highlighting some of the cultural struggles his church community sought to solve together. This pastor, by openly discussing anxiety, stress, and depression within a spiritual context and then building a support system, empowered members of the congregation to seek help without fear of reproach by acknowledging that “you can have God – and a therapist”.

Breaking Down Social Stigma Through Dialogue

“Societal norms and social mores feed into the stigma of mental health. We are all greatly influenced by our community, and if our immediate community sees mental health diagnoses as problematic, then it becomes more difficult for an individual to seek help”, says Roberts. Social media platforms have accelerated and intensified the stigma, which manifests through derogatory labeling and generational rivalries. Derogatory terms trivialize genuine struggles, creating divisions that hinder collective efforts to address societal challenges and successes. By promoting an inclusive and empathetic approach, we can diminish the impacts of social stigma, encouraging a more understanding society.

Unfortunately, those experiencing mental health issues, whether due to cultural or social norms, may avoid seeking assistance because they fear negative consequences from their community. Add to that challenges they may also face accessing mental health services, often complicated by linguistic and systemic barriers. However, the benefits of seeking help are clear. Just like the adage says, “Better out than in”. Talking through issues with a mental health professional can help develop coping strategies to deal with anxiety and stress, while more serious issues like depression can be identified and treated. Anyone can experience mental health challenges.

Three Ways You Can Help Reduce Stigma

Whether the condition is situational or chronic, there are things we can do within cultural and social environments to reduce mental health stigma:

  1. Finding Supportive Environments. When cultural and social norms make mental health issues a taboo subject, finding a support system with people who have shared experiences provides invaluable support in accessing much-needed services. Like our friend, the Pastor, he created a supportive environment that offered spiritual and therapeutic support for congregants who needed it by first acknowledging and then showing that spirituality can be incorporated with therapy.
  2. Understanding That Words Do Matter. How we speak about mental health is important. The power behind stigmatization is in the words we use to describe mental health. Feeding into the negative stereotypes around mental health does immeasurable harm to individuals with mental health issues. For those dealing with stress, anxiety, or depression, words do matter and can mean the difference between suffering in silence and seeking help.
  3. Get Informed About Mental Health. One reason why stigmas exist is because of a lack of information and awareness. Many organizations and programs provide access to accurate information and support groups about mental health, like Mental Health America (, the National Alliance on Mental Illness NAMI Miami-Dade (, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (, and course, Amplify Community Resources ( Someone who is uncomfortable seeking therapeutic services may be more open to joining a support group. Getting informed not only helps you understand your own mental health but also helps you support someone in need.

Finally, conversations about mental health are crucial in discussions about overall health, as mental health challenges can significantly impact our physical well-being. Saying you’re not okay should be a cause for concern, not ridicule. Many resources are available to those who need help but do not seek it out due to how their culture perceives mental illness. Addressing these stigmas and creating the space for cultural and societal norms to coexist alongside beliefs and programs is essential. This empowers individuals to embrace a fuller range of human emotions without the stigma of being judged harshly for being “weak”. In short, talking it out, being open, allowing grace, and creating a clear path to wellness are ways to end stigma and establish support systems for a healthier community—inside and out.

IMPORTANT NOTES: If you need assistance or have questions related to mental health, substance use, or other community services, contact the 211 system for health and social service assistance information and referrals. The 988 Lifeline crisis counselors provide support for people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress. Your personal information will remain confidential. If you or a loved one is in immediate danger, call 911; however, it is important to notify the operator if it is a psychiatric emergency and ask for the assistance of someone trained in crisis intervention or trained to assist people experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

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