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SAMHSA’s Award-Winning Newsletter
March/April 2010, Volume 18, Number 2 

Image of Take Action Share Ourselves

Mental Illness & African Americans: Initiative Raises Awareness

Stories That Heal, a national public service advertising campaign created by SAMHSA, the Ad Council, and the Stay Strong Foundation, seeks to spread the word to young African Americans that it’s okay to talk about depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.

According to SAMHSA data, in 2008, 6.0 percent of African Americans age 18 to 25 had serious mental illness in the past year. Less than half of these (44.8 percent) received treatment in the past year.

“Raising understanding of and attention to these issues within the African American community will provide greater opportunities for those needing help to receive effective mental health services,” said A. Kathryn Power, M.Ed., Director of SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).

“The campaign focuses on the ongoing issues of negative attitudes and misunderstanding about mental health problems,” said Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., CMHS Associate Director for Consumer Affairs, at Howard University on February 23, 2010. The campaign launch was simulcast to colleges and universities around the country.

“We know that social support and social acceptance are key factors in promoting recovery from mental health problems,” he said.

Personal Stories

According to Mr. del Vecchio, the campaign is designed to encourage young adults to share their strength by stepping up and talking openly about mental health problems. The central message is “Share Ourselves: Healing Starts with Us.”

The campaign’s Web site,, contains five powerful and empowering stories from African Americans who have experienced difficult times and overcome them with the help of their families, friends, and communities.

For instance, author and activist Thabiti Boone witnessed his mother’s failed suicide attempt when he was just 12 years old. He talks about how that day’s events affected him well into adulthood, causing him to experience depression and unresolved, powerful emotions.

In another video, Susan L. Taylor, editor-in-chief emeritus of Essence magazine, relates how her mother’s depression trickled down—that Ms. Taylor came to believe she was somehow responsible for her mother’s condition.

In each of the five stories—the three others feature a recording artist, a former gang member, and a police officer—the narrators emphasize the power of speaking the truth in helping them to overcome their mental health problems.

Whether they talked to a doctor and received counseling or medication, or if they connected with a family member or friend, each narrator broke out of the crippling sense of isolation and loneliness that mental illness can cause.

Spread the Word

In addition to the personal story videos, the Stories That Heal Web site offers radio, print, and outdoor public service announcements bearing messages such as “Depression doesn’t have to keep us down.”

Links to resources such as SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also are provided.

“Every day, so many of us wear the ‘mask’ of wellness that hides our pain from the world,” said Terrie M. Williams, M.S.W., co-founder of the Stay Strong Foundation. “Now is the time to identify and name our pain—minus the myths and the stigmas—and seek the help so many of us need.”

To view the videos and download the PSA materials, visit

Campaign Objective

To promote recovery from mental health problems within the African American community by encouraging, educating, and inspiring young people to talk openly.

Target Audience

18- to 25-year-olds


Ad Council
Stay Strong Foundation

Online Resources

What a Difference a Friend Makes

  Cover Story & Related Articles  
Take Action in Your Community

Take Action in Your Community

Three new campaigns bring powerful prevention messages to communities.

  From the Administrator  
Pamela S. Hyde, J.D.

Considering Language in Our Field

Do you use certain terms to describe our field? See terms.

  More on Underage Drinking  
Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

Sober Truth on Underage Drinking

The STOP program is making a difference. Read about grantees in Ohio, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

Town Hall Meetings Continue To Expand

Nearly 1,800 communities across the Nation recently met to discuss underage drinking.

State Estimates on Underage Drinking

State by state, the numbers differ on children and alcohol use.

  Women & Substance Abuse  
Treatment Improvement Protocol 51

Treatment Improvement Protocol 51

Gender makes a difference. TIP 51 can help providers offer women effective, up-to-date treatment.

Pregnant Teen Admissions

Pregnant Teen Admissions

Comparing data from 1992 and 2007 on admission rates.

  Treatment Updates  
Uninsured Workers: Recent Data

Uninsured Workers: Data

Who needs treatment for substance abuse?

Free Treatment Available

Some facilities offer substance abuse treatment at no charge or a sliding scale fee.

Opioid Treatment Programs: Two Reports

Opioid Treatment Programs: Two Reports

Methadone maintenance, buprenorphine maintenance. What are the similarities and differences among OTPs?

  Evidence-Based Practices  
Evidence-Based Practices KITs

Evidence-Based Practices KITs

The Knowledge Information Transformation (KIT) series offers new KITs.

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

The Agency outlines a budget request totaling $3.7 billion.

More on the Budget . . .

Established programs, new initiatives, and SAMHSA’s Budget Authority by Activity and the Agency’s Congressional Justification.

  Grants Updates  
Promoting Mental Health Recovery

Promoting Mental Health

Five behavioral health care provider associations recently received funding.

  Media & Messages  
Art & Children’s Mental Health

Art & Children’s Mental Health

Every day is Children’s Mental Health Day: “My Feelings Are a Work of Art.”

1-800-273-TALK Is the Lifeline

1-800-273-TALK Is the Lifeline

Share the Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s number on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Minds on the Edge

Minds on the Edge

Facing mental illness is the subject of a PBS program.

  Recovery Month  
Flyers Available

Flyers Available

For 2010 celebrations, the flyers are available in print and online.

Inhalant Use & Respiratory Conditions

Inhalant Use & Respiratory Conditions

Thousands of children age 12 to 17 with pneumonia, bronchitis, and asthma used inhalants.


Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration – 1 Choke Cherry Road – Rockville, MD 20857
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