Md. nonprofit wants to destigmatize mental illness with support groups for families

This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and a Maryland-based nonprofit says although the COVID-19 pandemic is over, it left behind a trail of mental health issues for local families.

According to statistics from Columbia-based organization Maryland Coalition of Families (MCF), emergency room visits increased 39% for youth age 12-17 from 2019 to 2021. There were also significant increases in the rates of anxiety, from 8% to 30%, and depression from 6% to 25% among adults during that same time period.

Christi Green, executive director of MCF, told WTOP when a family member is struggling with a mental health issue, it becomes a family affair.

“It affects everyone, it affects the parent, the caregiver, the entire family.”

Green said that’s where her organization steps in with family/peer support specialists who are assigned to families throughout the state.

Christi Green, Executive Director of Maryland Coalition of Families. (Courtesy Christi Green)

She says the family/peer support specialists use their own personal experiences to help families.

“They make sure you know you’re not alone and they’re going to help guide, empower, connect and support and advocate together,” Green said.

There are still stigmas attached to mental illness, and  some people still believe that you should keep mental health issues to yourself.

According to Green, MCF is about making sure if you’re having mental health issues, you are “talking to someone, going to therapy, and having a support group.”

The organization offers 15 support groups across the state with biweekly and monthly meeting. They are also planning special activities throughout the month of May to bring awareness to mental health.

Children’s Mental Health Matters Week is May 7-14. MCF will be highlighting the importance of accepting children’s mental health.

To find out more, visit the nonprofit’s website.

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant is an Anchor and Reporter for WTOP. Over the past 20 years, Stephanie has worked in several markets, including Baltimore, Washington, Houston and Charleston, holding positions ranging from newscaster to morning show co-host.

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