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Fighting the Stigma Around Mental Health

Although the COVID-19 vaccines offer hope, many of us still grapple with emotions created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the social, economic, and health challenges associated with it. A recent study found depression symptom rates in U.S. adults are 3 times higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Support and resources that can help us cope and improve our mental and emotional health continue to be vital today. Still, it can be hard to talk about mental health issues, especially in communities of color where discussing one’s mental well-being is considered taboo.

Kaiser Permanente wants to change that by creating a culture of acceptance and support, especially amongst underrepresented groups.

“For many, talking about mental health issues is difficult for cultural reasons — including feeling shame and fear that others will judge or label you,” said Juan-Carlos Zuberbuhler, MD, a board-certified child/adolescent/adult psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw. “Don’t let fear of a negative perception win, because when left untreated, mental health disorders can have severe consequences. The fact is, 1 in 5 people is affected by mental illness, and seeking help is the right thing to do. Attending to your mental health, just like your physical health, is a sign of strength and self-care.”

Any discussion with your mental health provider, as well as your diagnosis and treatment plan, will be kept confidential, he emphasized. “No family member, employer, or insurance company can access your medical records without your permission.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, Dr. Zuberbuhler recommends the following:

  • If you’re too anxious or depressed to advocate for yourself, it’s okay to lean on someone you trust for support to get the help you need. The first step toward getting help is talking about it. There is hope, and there is help.

  • Slowly get back into doing old routines you did when you were feeling better. For example, get a workout buddy or walking friend to help motivate you to become active again.

  • Disconnect from your phone, tablets, and computers and connect with real people (with masks and from a safe distance, of course). Humans are biologically driven to connect with others, so our interactions need to be more than just social media.

  • Visit for suggestions on how to start a conversation, resources and guidance (in both English and Spanish) to support those with depression or other mental health conditions.

  • For immediate help for a mental health crisis, including thoughts of suicide, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.

For Mental Health Awareness month in May, Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles and the Culver City Chamber of Commerce are partnering on a series of virtual events to help spread awareness and fight the stigma around mental health.

For event details, visit and follow @KPWestLA on Twitter for the latest information.

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