Minority Mental Health Month: #NoShame Day and The Siwe Project

My name is Dionne Monsanto and I gave birth to a brilliant beautiful girl who took her life at 15 years old. She lived and died with depression.

Amazing how ONE thing changes your life FOREVER. I am now a mental health advocate, an ear and a voice for my community, the Executive Director for The Siwe Project and a recently elected board member for the NYC Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. After my daughter’s death, I began an extremely personal yet public dialogue about her ongoing struggles with depression.

At her memorial on July 9th 2011, I opted to have 2 friends speak from their truths. Bassey Ikpi, Founder of The Siwe Project and Spoken Word Artist, who is diagnosed with Bi-Polar II disorder and Peta-Gaye Williams, a licensed clinical social worker. It was important to me that my community, especially the youth, had not only closure but SOLID information about the mental health challenges in our community.

When Siwe died a friend from work was not sure what to tell people about her death and how she died. I told her she took her life. She asked me if she could just say that. I assured her that I was NOT going to lie about my children in life or death. And she said ok. And so it began.

Once we “came out,” an inordinate amount of people shared their stories and the weight, the shroud of shame around mental health issues, began to be lifted. In 2012, #NOshame Day began. Since July is Minority Mental Health month, #NOshame Day is the 1st Monday in July.

I hope that you will share your story via Twitter and tag @thesiweproject (and @afspnational) with the hashtag #NOshame or #NoShameDay. Visit The Siwe Project on Facebook and share your story there too. Today, July 7th, is the 3rdannual #NOshame Day.

While sharing our stories does not change our reality, it softens the blow and we can COLLECTIVELY move toward healing.

Dionne Monsanto is the Executive Director of The Siwe Project and a board member for AFSP’s New York City Chapter. She is also a Certified Bikram Yoga Teacher & Life Coach.


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