We recently spoke with Missy Stolfi, Area Director, Western & Central New York Chapters of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention about stigma and how the community has embraced the message of the Join the Conversation Campaign.

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

AFSP believes in having a “Real Convo” about mental health, in order to help change our overall culture to be smart about mental health and, in turn, suicide prevention. A key protective factor when it comes to prevention is to have good mental health care, in addition to supportive people around you. Busting through stigma and educating about mental health is essential for people to access mental health care and for those who care about them to better understand the challenges. As the Western NY Chapter, we are thrilled to be a part of the coalition’s efforts to bring together so many amazing organizations in this common effort.

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

Stigma prevents those of us with mental health challenges from sharing this key information with our loved ones, from accessing mental health care, and from living our full potential. We all have a role to play in breaking down stigma internally and externally.

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

Visibility is key to changing hearts and minds about mental health, and it’s awesome to see the Coalition appear in so many areas of Erie County, leading the way. We all have mental health, as we do physical health, and we need to start thinking of it and treating it that way. At AFSP, we see the impact of this visibility in the growth of our annual Buffalo Out of the Darkness Walk, requests for our free prevention education programs and materials, and the sharing of our loss and healing resources as a way to reach out, not shy away, when someone in our community experiences a suicide loss.