Open Buffalo is a civic initiative to make major, long-term improvements in justice and equity in the City of Buffalo. It is an unprecedented collaboration among a diverse group of partners and allies. The organization’s mission is to advance racial, economic, and ecological justice through skill building, network connecting, and activating leadership opportunities. The goal is for all communities in Western New York to thrive free from discrimination and poverty.
We recently spoke with Max Anderson, deputy director, about stigma and the work of the Open Buffalo and the Coalition.
Q: Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?
Open Buffalo’s mission is to advance racial, economic, and ecological justice. We do so through skill building, network connecting, and activating leadership opportunities. Our goal is for all communities in Western New York to thrive free from discrimination and poverty. Most of our organization’s staff, and the populations we serve, have directly faced some form of systemic injustice and oppression. In many cases, these traumatic life experiences are the very things that motivate us to work towards long-term, systemic improvements in our community. At the same time, we realize that so many of our people carry unaddressed trauma in their bodies, having negative impacts on our mental health and our ability to show up as the best versions of ourselves. Resources like the Anti-Stigma Coalition are critical. Overcoming the barriers that stand in the way of our people taking care of their mental health is essential to us reaching our full potential and creating the change that we want to see in Buffalo and Western New York.
Q: How are people with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?
Among communities of color and other marginalized groups, there is an intense stigma tied to working on one’s mental health. We often wear our toughness and ability to endure trauma as badges of honor. To many of us, seeking help for mental health goes directly against this cultural standard and the lessons that are instilled in us during our formative years. Left unaddressed — whether because of embarrassment, shame, or cultural expectations — mental health challenges can fester, grow, and impact others in one’s family or immediate circle.
Q: What impact is the Campaign having in the community?
The Campaign is helping to demystify mental health care and to let people throughout our region know that it’s not only OK, but essential, to address our mental health.