CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - May is Mental Health Awareness month, and Natasha Giles is making it her mission to tear down the stigma of mental health.
She is currently the reigning Ms. S.C. All World Beauty 2016 Queen and her platform is Mental Health Awareness.
"Once you're considered sick people don't treat you the same," Giles said. She says people with mental illness aren't crazy, and stresses that with proper medication they can live normal productive lives.
According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health there's a good chance that 1 of 5 adults that you know suffers with a mental illness.
Twenty years ago Giles was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder while working as a therapist at a mental health facility. When she returned to work her former position was no longer available. But she says what hurt more than losing her job was her family's reaction.
"Family don't understand. In the Black culture mental illness doesn't exist. You go to God instead of going to therapy," she said.
Giles says some people are afraid to admit that they have mental health issues because of the stigma attached. When people find out that she has bipolar disorder, she says sometimes people respond by avoiding her.
Wende Reynolds is Giles' specialist. She says one of the biggest problems of those with mental illness is loneliness. She adds the solution to erasing those feelings lie within members of society.
"Just letting them know I'm here. 'You're connected, not invisible to me,' Reynolds said, adding a little bit of attention and support can bring about a tremendous amount of relief in the lives of those with mental disorders.
To get help, information or other resources, Trident United Way provides a 24-hour hotline. The number to dial is simply 2-1-1. Or you can visit www.sc211.org for access to resources and supportive listening.