#NoShameJuly 1 marks the second-annual No Shame Day, sponsored by the Siwe Project, an organization that advocates for mental-health awareness in communities of color. The Siwe Project is a labor of love from Bassey Ikpi, a writer and poet who publicly-chronicles her battle with Bipolar II disorder to advocate for the eradication of mental-illness stigma.

Named in honor of Ikpi’s friend Siwe Monsanto – a 15-year-old that ended her life after a grueling battle with manic depression – the Siwe Project describes No Shame Day as “an opportunity for people around the world to unabashedly rally around mental health care.” It is a movement created to offer support and awareness to the millions of African-Americans suffering with mental illness.

No Shame Day provides a safe-platform for those battling mental illnesses and their allies, relatives and friends to share their stories without shame.

The inaugural No Shame Day was the space I needed to add my voice to the chorus. I am and will forever be a recovering-Agoraphobic. I uttered those words publicly for the first time in 2012, penning an essay recounting my battle with the illness and using social media to share and engage with fellow Agoraphobics. It was the first time I realized I’m not alone.

Erasing the stigma associated with mental illness is essential to diagnosing and treating conditions, specifically in the African-American community. The National Institute of Mental Health and the American Psychiatric Association found that only one-in-three African-Americans seek adequate mental care.

The American Psychiatric Association reports:

Culturally diverse groups often bare a disproportionately high burden of disability resulting from mental disorders. This disparity does not stem from a greater prevalence rate or severity of illness in African Americans, but from a lack of culturally competent care, and receiving less or poor quality care. For some disorders, such as schizophrenia and mood disorders, there is a high probability of misdiagnosis because of differences in how African-Americans express symptoms of emotional distress.

No Shame Day aims to remove this additional barrier by increasing awareness and removing stigma. The commemoration aligns with the first Monday of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ (NAMI) National Minority Health Awareness Month, designed by Congress to increase mental health awareness and encourage treatment.

Mental illness is dark. It’s suffocating. It’s painful. It’s unrelenting. It’s frightening. It’s crucial to shine a spotlight on mental disorders to encourage those in the trenches to seek help. No Shame Day accomplishes this task through love and positivity.

Ikpi is encouraging all those afflicted and impacted by mental illness to share their stories of struggles, wars and triumphs. No Shame Day is conducted on the Siwe Project’s website and on Twitter.

No Shame Day encourages all those affected to share their personal stories about the various ways in which mental illness has affected their lives on The Siwe Project’s official website, as well as on Twitter.

Those who are interested, should post their stories to a personal blog on Sunday, June 30th or Monday, July 1st. Be sure to share the link via Twitter @thesiweproject or facebook.com/thesiweproject using the hashtag #NoShameDay. On No Shame Day, rebelmouse.com/TheSiweProject will provide the latest updates.

I will be raising my voice today. I encourage all other mental-health warriors and their soldiers to unleash their battle cries as well.

My name is Evette Dionne. I am a writer, editor and Agoraphobic and I have #noshame.

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