Living with a mental health issue is often hard enough on its own. But unfortunately, those who suffer from such issues also have to deal with the intense negative stigma that’s attached to mental illnesses.
That’s why Jacksonville native Gabrielle Magid founded her nonprofit organization, Stronger Than Stigma – to fight back against the misnomers, misinformation, and stereotypes often associated with mental illness.
The organization, which is based in Jacksonville, seeks to promote mental well-being and empower those who suffer from mental health issues. It strives to start a meaningful dialogue about mental health, both in Jacksonville and at-large.
Magid was inspired by her own struggles with anxiety and depression, wishing to help others in her situation and to let them know that they’re not alone.
“It’s very isolating,” says Magid. “We’re trying to create this network where you’re not alone. Part of the healing process is having a community.”
Magid launched the organization in 2013 during her time in college at the University of Florida, starting with a team of four – one of whom was at Florida State University. She did so with the goal of creating a safe environment on campus for open discussions about mental health.
“On a college campus in particular, a struggling student is more [likely] to talk to a friend than a figure of authority,” Magid points out.
When she moved back to Jax in 2015, she opted to rebuild the organization in Jacksonville. And while it was a tall task to start largely from scratch in Jax, the move has paid off so far.
Magid and her team have partnered with other local organizations like WJCT and MOSH to put on awareness events, and have established themselves within the community.
Magid is well aware that squashing stigma in Jacksonville is far from simple. She knows – and laments – the realities of the current mental health care resources in the area, such as correctional facilities being the main provider of mental health care in Florida.
“They’re not criminals,” explains Magid, “but they’re on the streets and doing things they shouldn’t do.”
There’s also the reality of how much time it takes to start a meaningful movement.
“It takes time to enter the collective consciousness,” Magid says.
Magid plans to continue to expand the presence of Stronger Than Stigma within the community, in hopes of entering the city’s collective consciousness. She’s assembled a quality team of like-minded young professionals, while also developing important contacts with mentors who work in the field of mental health care.
And while she doesn’t want to reveal any secrets about the organization’s future just yet, she says there are “big things ahead.”
If you wish to take part in the movement, the organization offers several opportunities to do so on its website (strongerthanstigma.org) – including the ability to donate.
We look forward to the growth of Stronger Than Stigma and similar organizations. By starting a dialogue, they’re putting Jax on the path to better mental well-being.