As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Silence the Shame Day on May 5 will use social media in an attempt to banish the stigma of shame surrounding conversations about mental illness.
Hip-Hop Professional Foundation Founder, Shanti Das, who started the Silence the Shame initiative, said the goal of Silence the Shame Day is to dedicate time to open conversations about mental health without feelings of shame for having mental health issues.
“Mental health disorders or challenges are not specific to one nationality, income level or any one person,” Das said. “It affects everyone across the board. I think we have to look at it as a human problem and not a problem of one particular culture.”
On Silence the Shame Day, people can participate by sharing stories or encouragement on social media with the hashtag #SilenceTheShame.
According to the National Day Calendar, Silence the Shame Day was registered as a national day for the first time in 2018. This comes after the self-proclaimed Silence the Shame last year.
On May 5, 2017, the Silence the Shame initiative received 90 million impressions on social media, Das said. The social media conversation has continued since then, leading to nearly 5,000 Instagram followers and just over 5,500 posts with the #SilenceTheShame on Instagram.
The Hip-Hop Professional Foundation supports the Silence the Shame initiative as part of their broader mission to help, “empower and enrich the lives of those in underserved communities around mental health, youth empowerment and poverty,” according to their website.
Silence the Shame travels to cities around the United States to give free Mental Health First-Aid Training—an eight-hour course on recognizing and helping with the signs of mental illness.
Silence the Shame also does podcasts that are available on iTunes, Google Play and SoundCloud. Das has partnered with the Jack and Jill Foundation, to have panel discussions on mental health around the U.S.
Das said they are partnered with Crisis Text Line, a 24-hour confidential texting service that connects people with counselors and licensed health care professionals. You can text “Silence” to 741741 to get help. They also work with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as the first line of defense.
Das said Silence the Shame wants to help college campuses have more resources and support for mental health since the suicide rates on campuses have grown in the past 5 to 10 years.
College students in the United States can become Silence the Shame Ambassadors by working with campus counseling centers to organize support groups and events.
“One of the issues that a lot of Millennials face in this day and age is the idea of perfectionism,” Das said. “I just want people to know that while we always want you to strive to be your absolute best, I don’t think it’s healthy to be perfect at everything. You have to make sure there is balance in your life and that you are taking care of yourself with certain self-care regimens such as yoga, exercise, meditation, taking a walk and having a proper healthy diet.”
To become an ambassador, students can email Silence the Shame at email@example.com.
Das’ personal battle with mental illness sparked the idea for Silence the Shame. As a successful adult in the music industry working with artists such as Outkast, TLC, Toni Braxton and Prince, Das met her first challenges with mental illness.
She had never addressed her feelings about her father dying from suicide when she was 7 months old. She said she went to some counseling but quit after a few months.
In 2009, she walked away from her job as Executive Vice President of Marketing at Universal Motown Records in New York City. She moved back to her home in Atlanta, Georgia, to deal with family issues and health problems.
In 2015, she had suicidal thoughts and knew she had to get more professional help. She said during this time, the idea of Silence the Shame was born.
“Silence the Shame was something that rolled off my tongue one day and I realized it was a gift and a blessing that had been placed in my spirit to start the movement,” she said.
She found women who wanted to help fund the movement and quickly got started. With the added help of her friends in the music and entertainment industry, including Nick Cannon, Silence the Shame was officially launched on May 5, 2017.
“I had a wonderful career working with artists like Outcast and TLC and so many other wonderful artists, but I feel like [Silence the Shame) is my purpose in life,” Das said. “It was my aha moment when I realized that this was a movement that’s been placed in my lap and I have to see it through.”