According to a recent Kaiser study, when asked whether or not they would feel comfortable living next door to a person with a mental illness, only 48% of adults said “yes.”
But Dr. Kita Curry wants to us to know that mental illness does not just plague homeless men and women on the streets or newsworthy perpetrators of violence. It takes shape in our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family members.
Dr. Curry has been working to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness for years. As a child, she struggled at home with her alcoholic father. When she attempted suicide as a teenager, her mother simply said she was looking for attention.
“I felt ashamed that I was trying to get attention then. But looking back on it, I realized that, yes, I was getting attention. I needed attention,” says Dr. Curry. “I just knew that I needed help and that things weren’t right.”
It was when Dr. Curry was in her 20s and studying psychology that she first sought the help of a therapist. It was difficult, however, especially since she was young and uninsured. Today, she serves as the President and CEO of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services and helps others who face similar struggles. Since she took the helm in 1999, the organization’s services have nearly doubled, serving over 78,000 adults and children in Southern California each year.
Besides community outreach, Dr. Curry and her colleagues are working hard to fight the stigmas that plague society’s discussion of mental illness.
“We talk all about mass murders, which happen very rarely. We don’t talk about the ex-head of CNN who wrote [a book] about his debilitating depression and yet was incredibly successful. Terry Bradshaw has spoken about his depression,” said Dr. Curry. “We don’t talk about those people. We don’t put them on the news.”
Dr. Kita Curry joined Mike Walters in the studio to discuss the stigmas that surround mental illness, and how she and her colleagues are working to offer help at the community level.