HARKER HEIGHTS, TX — Thursday is Mental Health Action Day, its purpose in the title. Mental Health Awareness is one thing, but taking action against the stigma surrounding it is another.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, initiatives highlighting mental health awareness were a priority with millions across the country coping with isolation. Although more people are feeling comfortable discussing their mental health concerns, there is still a stigma surrounding the topic.
Dr. Sam Fiala Professor of Psychology at Texas A&M-Central Texas said, "A big part of it has to do with just the history of mental health and its treatment in the US and globally. And going way, way back again, you have these spiritual explanations for mental illness."
Fiala says it's important to educate yourself and expose yourself to mental health resources to ensure you are not stigmatizing mental illness. Most times trained medical professionals are the best people to help with mental health challenges but having someone you trust and can be vulnerable with can be healing too.
"If you have family members, spiritual leaders, kind of elders that you trust that has some wisdom, reach out to them. Other people can be a therapeutic force in your life," said Fiala.
With Thursday being Mental Health Action Day, Fiala encourages you to take time for yourself today and every day.
One Harker Heights family works year-round to break the stigma surrounding mental illness, after losing two family members to suicide.
Aundrea said, "Our world shattered when we lost Robert. He was 13 and a half when he died by suicide. It still feels shattered."
Aundrea Kachura's youngest son and her nephew, both struggling with mental health issues that lead each of them to die by suicide.
A feeling her oldest son Anthony Kachura knows all too well.
"I was at that point where I wanted to take my life," said Anthony Kachura.
He has spent years prioritizing and improving his mental health. Anthony is now an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention.
"Everyone says it’s not going to happen to us it’s not going to happen to us. By us taking our time and helping other people, those families aren’t going to be alone," Anthony said.
The Kachura's are working in support of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The family is getting out on Mental Health Action day to promote the October Out of Darkness Community Walk. Aundrea said working with organizations like AFSP helps with her healing process.
Aundrea said, "It makes Robert, his death, not so in vain."
The family is urging everyone to take the time to talk about mental health with their loved ones because it's literally a matter of life and death.
Cherokee Kachura said, "Have someone that you can talk to because that’s going to help get you out of that bad place and get into a better place."
On October 9th, the Kachuras' will be walking at Harker Heights Community Park alongside other families who have had loved ones die by suicide, for the Out of the Darkness 2021 Community Walk. 50% of the funds raised will stay right here in central Texas to improve access to mental health care in our area.
Aundrea says right now they are looking for volunteers and sponsors. For more information, click here.