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Education Campaign: Decriminalizing Mental Health & Dismantling Stigmas

Updated: Nov 23, 2023

Podcast Episode Recommendation:

“Marginalized Communities and the Healing Justice Model” is an impactful episode on the Inside Mental Health podcast by Yolo Akili Robinson, a profound author, healing justice worker, and founder and executive director of BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective). In this episode, Yolo discusses the importance of mental health among BIPOC communities, especially as activist burnout becomes a more prevalent and discussed topic. By analyzing the causes of activist burnout among marginalized communities, such as white fragility and performative activism, Yolo hopes to help provide a space for mindfulness and reflection. Not only does his organization, BEAM, help people of color heal and recover from encounters with discrimination, but it also hopes to educate others on the intersection of racism, sexism, and other biases with psychology and psychiatry. Similar to Yolo’s goal, although Take Action Inc. encourages everyone to continue to take action against the discrimination that inundates our world, we also acknowledge the prevalence of activist burnout and importance of prioritizing mental health. Here are some resources to educate yourself on activist burnout and start the healing process:

Activist Spotlight: Ariela Safria

Ariela Safria is the mental health activist behind Real, an online mental health advocacy company. Real’s mission is to supply users with ways to care for themselves and to improve users’ mental health using therapist-created “pathways.” These pathways vary due to concern, some may choose a pathway related to anxiety while some choose a sexuality based pathway. Real’s features help users strengthen connections with themselves. When Safria was an undergraduate student at Stanford University, she majored in math and computer science. When a dear friend of hers started to struggle with mental health, Safria knew that she wanted to make a difference. When she was first truly exposed to the mental healthcare system, she “didn’t think the system made sense so” she “pretty much threw” herself at it. She applied her knowledge from the “Innovation in Mental Health'' class that she took at Stanford to creating Real. Her professor and psychiatrist, Dr. Nina Vasan, is now the Chief Medical Officer of the company. However, the creation of Real did not happen so fast. Safria’s original plan was to become a therapist, so she enrolled in Columbia University’s Clinical Psychology program. But she says, “While I was at Columbia I saw how problematic the system is from a training perspective. It’s both damaging to the therapist and the end clients. So I dropped out of the program to found Real.” She worked on Real full-time starting in 2019 and the Real model finally launched in April 2020. She says, “We’re targeting the therapy curious. Not those that have already felt comforted by or can afford today's mental healthcare system,” which is backed by the monthly price of $23 per month, while many therapeutic services cost upwards of $200 per session. Safria has really made her dream of making mental health care more accessible and more reliable come true through Real.

Continue Learning:

Mental Health + Criminal Justice Current Events:

About 2 million people are currently incarcerated by the American criminal justice system - that is the largest incarceration rate in the world. Unfortunately, a history of tough-on-crime policies have shaped America’s attitudes towards incarcerated individuals by reducing them to violent criminals. Instead, most people in prison are part of larger cycles of poverty and mental illness. The criminal justice system, however, is designed to be punitive, and does not provide enough opportunities for rehabilitation and restorative justice. According to a report by the American Psychiatric Association, 54% of state inmates and 45% of federal inmates face mental health concerns. Substance abuse also makes incarcerated individuals more vulnerable to mental health issues and increased recidivism rates.

The harms of the criminal justice system are also a reflection of Americans’ overall attitudes towards individuals who are facing mental health and substance issues. We have chosen to institutionalize human beings instead of providing a path to healing through education, mental health services, and other interventions. President Biden and Mayor Eric Adams have both pointed to increased funding for police as legislative priorities, and as a means of upholding public safety. However, the limitations of relying on police are evident, and only address the symptoms of a deeper issue of ableism within the American justice system.

Book Recommendations:

*TW: Please read the descriptions of these books before reading, some contain detailed discussions of triggering topics.*

All of the books here are linked to their page on “The Lit. Bar,” which is the “only brick & mortar bookstore serving the 1.5 million people of the Boogie Down Bronx.”

Mental Health in Teens



Childhood Trauma

Free and Confidential Healthcare and Mental Health Services (Courtesy of the Counseling Team):

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