Eliminating the stigma of Mental Illness

By LisaMarie Martinez

When someone is suffering from mental illness, it could lead to a cascade of hurt projected not only to oneself, but to others, and to society. When their suffering is in silence, it can be one of the most challenging things they can face on a daily basis, especially when discussing its existence is taboo in a person’s family or within their culture. A smile is sometimes used to hide the inner pain associated with these mental health struggles. The ability to heal from this type of pain requires a safe environment, offering cultural sensitivity and openness, to discuss the difficult topics involving self and things defined as harmful to oneself. Luv Mrk is a Denver-based organization fostering this environment.

Luv Mrk is a company dedicated to guiding people to value themselves and others through the improvement of their mental health. Hailima I. Yates is not only the CEO and founder, but she is also the author of the “Dissolving the Anchor: Untethering Dysphoria and Self-Doubt to Create an Empowered Life” as well as a transformational speaker and mindset coach.

Yates started her company five years ago, because “I wanted us to leave our mark on the world with love. Because I see people hurting, because I see people struggling in various ways, no matter your social identity. I wanted to be able to provide something for all people that can have them be aware of what they can consciously do to make sure that they are taking steps necessary to impact their life as well as their community in a positive way.”

Luv Mrk offers two types of workshops: self-empowerment sessions help to foster social, emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing, and the diversity, equity and inclusion training helps people humanize others by valuing themselves and each other in order to treat everyone with respect and kindness. Her past experiences with a negative self-image, low self-esteem, substance use, and suicidal thoughts helped her to realize, “We need to acknowledge that our mental health encompasses our overall health: social, emotional and physical wellbeing.” 

Fostering Personal Mental Health

To foster mental health, Yates recommends practicing self-care by “finding a place you can be in silence and just breathe, and choosing what coping methods work best for you to settle emotions at the moment.” Ways to cope include taking a warm bath, going for a nice drive, baking, or watching funny videos. She said after you feel more relaxed you are able to better think about how to resolve what caused the mental stress. She recommends determining “what you can do to change a situation, or if an issue is out of your control choose what self-care methods will help with managing your emotions to handle what is unchangeable.”

To maintain mental wellness, she recommends therapy or support groups, spending time with supportive friends and family, exercising, good nutrition, meditation, and getting involved with things that are intellectually stimulating and bring you joy.

She wanted to share that, “There are so many things that we deal with as people of color, that we have faced, that show whether people do value us or they don’t value us. That affects your mindset. We need to see ourselves in healthy ways, have healthy views about ourselves, see each other in healthy ways, and see the human dignity in each other. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.”  She pointed out that being financially unstable, losing loved ones, facing racism, dealing with other life challenges, feeling sad, angry, and hopeless affects your emotional and mental wellbeing. She emphasized the need to “continue breaking the stigma tied to mental health struggles. The hypercritical perception of people battling certain struggles as being flawed or weak can have people feel shame and can prevent people from getting help in order to avoid judgment. We need to eliminate that stigma, realizing that all of us go through things and it can affect our mental state.”

She pointed to the lack of cultural sensitivity by mental health professionals could exist in the presence of conscious and unconscious biases which could lead to a misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment or guidance. She said, “This leads to mistrusting mental health professionals. Thankfully, nowadays there are several Black therapists of color to choose from. Having access to professionals you can identify with who will see your human dignity and maybe integrate your identity and cultural background into your treatment plan to provide the best treatment plan for you.”

Her programs provide tools to guide people to make beneficial choices in their lives and for the lives of people around them, and help people become aware of what created mindsets that affect their self-esteem, self-identity, personal and professional life choices, and relationships. Her clients include individuals and groups, as well as nonprofits and national and international companies.

Diversity Equity and Inclusion Training

As the vice president of talent and culture for PEARL iZUMi, Jenny Stroud is responsible for all human resources policies, engagement programming and the cultural health at the maker of bike apparel in Louisville, Colo. A former colleague recommended Stroud look into Luv Mrk and had wonderful things to say about its founder Yates. PEARL iZUMi participated in a Luv Mrk program that addressed uncovering and understanding unconscious bias in the workplace, as a complement to the company’s internal work educating its employees about these topics.

Stroud said, “The first step to truly being inclusive is understanding and uncovering biases. The more inclusive we are, the better we are as a company and as individuals. We felt so strongly about this program we had all our employees participate, and everyone is benefiting. We have enjoyed working with Hailima, her content has been wonderful, she pushes you to reflect on your own actions and she creates a safe environment to have hard discussions. I would highly recommend this program!”

Self-Empowerment Workshops

Sean Wright, the owner of Wright’s Essential Handyman Services, is a peer counselor for a program that aims to strengthen bonds between formerly incarcerated individuals and their families, and he uses his business to offer work to people who struggle to reenter society. Having been incarcerated himself for the illegal involvement with controlled substances, Wright realized his past actions were hurtful to families and anyone he came into contact with, and wanted to be better for them and himself.

After his incarceration, he attended workshops provided by a nonprofit group to help him get through the struggles of getting custody of his son and get closure from the passing of the two most important women in his life. Through these workshops, he met Yates, and enrolled in one of her programs.

He felt that the program can help all walks of life because it “helps you get through the struggles you are going through and helps you get on the right path to be a more productive and successful person in our community. I would recommend this program to anyone who is suffering with their mental health.” 

He viewed the experience in the program as life-changing, motivating and a way to help other incarcerated men with their mental health issues, and for them to see that “Life’s too short. Us as men, we need to do more, we need to step up, we need to start taking care of our responsibilities, and own up to it. We need to do our part and do what’s right and take care of our kids.”  

Yates explained, “All of us can be hurting. No matter your social identity, there can be things that you’re going through. I work with people no matter if you identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), as LGBTQ+, or however you identify as. And as a human being, I will work with you because I want to do what I can to promote happiness. I want to do what I can to have us enjoy our time while we are here on this earth.” 

Editor’s note: For more information visit https://www.luvmrk.com/ . If you need mental health services or feel suicidal, contact Colorado Crisis Services (1-844-493-8255 or Text “TALK” to 38255) or National Alliance on Mental Illness (1-800-950-6264 or Text “NAMI” to 741741). You can also visit walk-in crisis centers, or the nearest emergency room for immediate assistance. For information resources, go online to https://coloradocrisisservices.org/, or https://www.nami.org/Home.