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Find Your Superpower

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” —Arthur Ashe

by Jo Valenti, BSN, RN, Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board

For those of us facing each day with the realization that things may be more challenging because we have a mental illness, life may sometimes seem unfair. We need to realize instead that everybody has issues, that no one is perfect in body and mind, and it might be best to reset our perspective on this. Since we all have something that makes us struggle, we are all essentially equal. Physical illness or mental illness both challenge daily life. Just as we do not blame someone for their diabetes diagnosis, we must not blame anyone, including ourselves, for a mental illness diagnosis. Erasing the stigma is the first step in recovery.

Famous comedian, actor, entrepreneur, and father Wayne Brady has only recently revealed his struggle with depression. Even though he achieved enormous success, in retrospect he realized he had struggled without help for decades. His ex-wife and business partner Mandie Taketa urged him to get help. But the stigma of mental illness, even stronger in the Black community, caused him to be reluctant to do so.

“Like many people in the African American culture, I grew up thinking that therapy was a bad word or therapy’s not for me—therapy’s for white people, therapy’s for crazy people. So it took a lot of work to open my eyes to see that asking for help is not a weakness. In fact, that’s a strength, saying I need this. That’s a superpower,” Brady told Parents magazine)

Brady manages his illness with medication and therapy and also attends men’s support groups. He practices self-care and healthy coping mechanisms.

What can we learn from this example of a person in the public spotlight who successfully copes with mental illness? Be willing to accept advice from people who love you; they may recognize your problems before you do. Don’t let society’s stigmas prevent you from getting help. Be willing to chart your own journey to recovery; there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Customize your recovery and be open to change as your needs change.

Locally, the Cumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board is actively promoting anti-stigma efforts. Through this column and other activities, the Board engages Cumberland County residents in education about mental illness and addiction. The Board’s activities include providing leadership and guidance in the development, maintenance and improvement of mental health and addiction services. The Board assists in planning, implementing and monitoring these services.

Each month at a meeting open to the public, the Board reviews reports from the Mental Health Administrator, alcohol and drug services, the Municipal Alliance and Recovery Support Services. In addition to reports from the Board’s subcommittees, agencies that provide services within the county give their reports. There is an opportunity for public comment at each meeting. The schedule for meetings can be found on the Cumberland County website, with remote and in-person options.

The Coumberland County Mental Health and Addictions Board is looking for dedicated members. If you or someone you know is interested, send a letter of interest and resume by e-mail to or by mail, Cumberland County Human Services, 70 W. Broad St., Bridgeton, NJ 08302.

Minding Your Mind