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Suffering from the holiday blues?

New Horizons CEO: ‘Mental illness hits Blacks at alarming rate

D. Kevin McNeir | 12/25/2013, 9 a.m.

Mental illness not just a ‘white thing’

Bestman says that one of the greatest misnomers is that mental illness is a problem unique to whites. She says it’s a “people problem.”

“Mental illness is not designated to one race, ethnic group or background,” she added. “We all have problems, including bouts with depression — the key is how we react to those problems. For some people, there are chemical imbalances in the brain that are the cause of mental illness. That’s why they need medication. And then there are life stresses too. Blacks are hit hardest — sometimes because of unemployment or former incarceration and the barriers that come with that stigma or racism. We may need treatment to work through all of that. And it’s nothing for which one should feel ashamed.”

Finally, she says that the holiday blues do exist but there are some easy ways to handle them.

“Christmas is not everyone’s favorite time of the year,” she said. “If you suffered a traumatic experience during this time of the year, it can bring up bad memories. Sometimes you’re depressed because friends or family that once made the holiday enjoyable are no longer alive and we miss them and the past. We need to own up to those feelings. Maybe write them down in a journal. Do something that you like — not what tends to be expected. Volunteer at a feeding mission or with a church. Do something to take care of yourself. And, if that doesn’t work, seek medical assistance.”

With a staff of 190 physicians, psychologists, nurses and administrators — reduced from a one-time high of over 500 — Bestman and her crew work with a $12M annual budget to provide services to a community that is badly underserved. But she says they need a larger donor base so they can continue to offer services to people — especially for those who cannot afford the services — like the homeless for whom they have gained a well deserved reputation of providing quality care.

“I want to let the cat out of the bag once and for all — New Horizons is here to serve our community,” she said.