Catholic Charities of Buffalo is a Catholic-sponsored human service agency serving anyone in need in the eight counties of Western New York. Believing all persons are created by God, they empower individuals, children, and families to achieve and maintain meaningful, healthy, and productive lives. Catholic Charities advocates for those in need – particularly those who are poor and most vulnerable.

We recently spoke with Megan F. Lostracco-Reed, BS, MHA, who shared her insight about Catholic Charities, stigma, and mental health.

Q: Why did you become a member of the Coalition?

As a large human services provider in Western New York, Catholic Charities provides an array of services to the community addressing social determinant of health needs and providing mental health and substance abuse services. Catholic Charities aims to be a Beacon of HOPE for all those in need—not only for people on their worst day, but to be there along the road to recovery, whether that’s regarding mental wellness, food or housing insecurity, education, or joining the workforce! Catholic Charities strives to meet people where they are at and hold out a warm welcoming hand, just like the Anti-Stigma Coalition. We want to reach those in need directly and advocate for breaking down those barriers to care, including Stigma and misunderstandings associated with Mental Health.

Q: Does stigma prevent people from seeking help for mental health challenges?

In my opinion, yes, absolutely. It is difficult to erase the idea of “mental illness” and what that looked like less than a century ago and transform it into what it truly is today: “Mental Health” or “Mental Wellness.” We’ve made huge strides already as a community, country, and world, and I truly believe we are moving in the right direction. The more we can talk about mental wellness and speak as openly about things like depression and schizophrenia as we do about diabetes or heart disease, the more people we realize how important it is to not just “treat an illness,” but to BE mentally well.

Q: What impact is the campaign having?

We just joined the coalition, so I don’t really feel equipped to answer that question in detail, but I am looking forward to being more involved in efforts to open discussions about mental health and break down the stigma so everyone can get the help they need.

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