Removing the stigma: Anchorage woman speaks up about mental health

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Genevieve Mina knows how important removing the stigma around mental health is.

“Growing up, we were a pretty cohesive, normal family,” Mina said. “We went fishing together, vacations and all of that. But when I was 11 years old, I remember my family at the time were like, hey, your dad he is going through some things right now. But it wasn’t something we really talked about. And unfortunately, he died by suicide when I was 11 years old.”

She described him as “machismo, friendly, and compassionate.”

So when Mina’s father took his own life, it came as a shock.

“A lot of that cultural stigma is something that my father really internalized,” she said. “He never talked about his depression. He was very machismo, big, he was the head of the family.”

Mina now stresses the importance of having conversations about mental health and reaching out to people who may be showing signs of struggling.

On average, one person dies by suicide every 44 hours in the state, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“Once I started to really tell my story, and got support, I realized it was my opportunity to normalize mental illness,” Mina said. “Talking about it, how we have resources, and there are people out there to support you. We feel all alone if we have these ideation.”

“Until we look at it like this broad umbrella that it all fits under health, we’ll be fighting an uphill battle,” said Dennis Lasley Board Chair for the Alaska Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Lasley said that the fight against the stigma on mental health is one of the biggest battles.

“It is a 100 percent preventable cause of death,” he said. “It’s okay to not be okay.”

Lasley encourages anyone struggling or who knows of anyone struggling to use any of the following resources:

If you or someone you know is struggling or experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the Alaska Careline at 1-877-266-HELP (4357). It is also Alaska’s suicide prevention line.

The Survivors of Suicide Loss grief support group is hosted by the Alaska Police and Fire Chaplains, meets the first and third Tuesday and can be reached by calling (907) 272-3100.

The Veterans & Military Crisis Line is 800-273-8255.

The psychiatric emergency department at Providence Alaska Medical Center welcomes patients going through psychiatric crises.

Reach out to your primary care physician who may be able to refer you to a resource that works for you.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has 24/7 free and confidential support for anyone in distress. They are able to provide information for you or loves ones.

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