Native American Community Services of Erie & Niagara Counties, Inc. (NACS) is a non-profit organization founded in 1975 to provide quality health and social services to the off-reservation Native American population in Erie and Niagara Counties.

We recently spoke with Star Wheeler, health and wellness director, about the mental health challenges and stigma.

Q: Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?

NACS wanted to be a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition because we understand that mental illness and addiction can arise from a variety of sources and that anyone can be affected. NACS is also aware of the relationship between stigma, prejudice and discrimination. We know that fear and misunderstanding can lead to discrimination. NACS wanted to be a part of spreading awareness to help educate about mental illness and addiction to eliminate stigma so that people access the help they need.

Q: How are people with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?

People with mental health challenges are impacted in many ways. Discrimination and negative attitudes can lead to feelings of hopelessness and shame in those struggling with their mental health and/or addiction. These feelings can affect their well-being and hinder them from seeking the help they need.

Q: What impact is the Campaign having in the community?

The campaign provides the needed education and resources about mental illness and addiction, assists people with the help and support they need and creates awareness of the harmful effects that stigma can have on those who experience it. It is also helping to change negative attitudes and encourage people to seek help.