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Welcome to Voices of Courage, a series in which we share inspiring stories of mental health advocates from all walks of life. Through these stories, we hope to increase awareness of mental health issues and provide a platform for those advocating for mental health. We also hope to provide resources for those struggling and inspire others to become advocates. Thank you for joining us!
Today, Amend Treatment is happy to introduce Mary Hayashi – Author, Public Affairs Consultant, Former CA Assemblywoman, and Healthcare Non-Profit Director.
Life’s Trials and Tribulations Inspired Mary Hayashi to Speak out About Mental Health
“As a girl growing up in Korea, an Asian American immigrant, a survivor of suicide, having lost my older sister to mental illness, a women’s health advocate and an elected official, each part of my life has provided its own set of challenges, lessons, and successes. But what led me to a lifetime of public service and healthcare advocacy is that I lost my older sister to suicide when she was 17.
I began to understand that my sister couldn’t seek help because we were taught to keep our personal problems to ourselves. She had been struggling. The morning she hung herself in our room, she showed me packages of sleeping pills she had taken. But I was too young to help her then, and even if I had been older, I would have been held back by those around me who celebrated silence as strength. I wasn’t aware that she was having tremendous problems with depression. Depression or any health problem was not discussed in our family or culture. Because her struggle was silent, we were completely shocked when she took her own life.”
One Thing Mary Hayashi Has Done in Her Work That She’s Extremely Proud Of
“I had the opportunity to serve as the Alameda County coordinator in the winning campaign to pass Proposition 63, which provides increased funding for prevention and treatment services in county and statewide mental health programs. I also served as a commissioner on the California Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, which was created to monitor the implementation of Prop 63.”
Mary Hayashi Has Faced Plenty of Challenges While Advocating for Mental Health
“Stigma and shame are believed to figure prominently in lower mental health care utilization. Encouraging a better understanding of mental illness and suicide can help reduce the stigma that discourages individuals and their families from getting the help they need. Every day, each of us can help to reduce the stigma that surrounds mental illness by being aware of and altering our own behavior. By working to educate the public, I believe we can change the focus from the staggering statistics to the great hope for prevention and recovery that exists in the mental health field today.”
One Message Mary Hayashi Would Like People to Take Away From Her Work
“While mental illness may impact all Americans either directly or indirectly, people do not have equal access to treatment services. We need to address these inequities by changing the social and economic status of many Americans who cannot afford access to healthcare. The revolution in science led to many effective treatment options for mental illness, and those treatments should benefit every American of race, ethnicity, and gender. Everyone in need must have access to high quality, effective and affordable mental health services.”
Advice Mary Hayashi Would Give to Others Looking to Get Involved
“My journey from South Korea to America and from a helpless bystander to a national healthcare advocate for Asian American women’s health issues was possible because I wanted to make a difference. I founded the National Asian Women’s Health Organization because there was no organization in 1993 working to address Asian American women’s health issues. I hope others will also realize the importance of breaking the silence.”
Learn more about Mary Hayashi by visiting maryhayashi.com or following her on social media.
If you or someone you know has a story to share, please email [email protected].