Orlando, Fla. – When a loved one has the flu, you expect them to go to a doctor for treatment.

But if a loved one is struggling with symptoms of a mental disorder, addiction, or sexually transmitted disease, why might seeking help be viewed negatively?

It is because of stigma.

Stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people has about something.

Negative social judgments around mental health, domestic violence and medical conditions can delay someone’s treatment and have dire consequences.

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So how do we end discrimination and shame?

Let’s start with a problem that affects people of all genders: abuse.

If you or someone you love needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or text “START” to 88788.

sexually transmitted diseases

Another big stigma we take for granted today is STDs.

Certain medical conditions can bring feelings of embarrassment and shame, prompting some people to keep their diagnosis a secret.

STDs left untreated and uncommunicated can have detrimental effects on the health of both the individual and others.

That’s why Solunizers is working to reduce the spread and make conversations more comfortable.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida currently has the second highest rate of new HIV cases in the nation.

HIV diagnosis refers to the number of people diagnosed with HIV each year.

Orange County is one of the top five areas in the country for new cases, the data show.

Childhood mental illness

We have come a long way in treating serious mental disorders like schizophrenia.

But despite these advances, stigma continues to be a reality, for example, in movies where mental illness is often depicted with violent or dangerous people.

For parents of children suffering from hallucinations, finding the right kind of care can be extremely difficult.

SMA Healthcare offers a solution in Daytona Beach’s “Navigate” program.

“It can be hearing voices, being disorienting, they see other people around them, they hear them talking to them,” said Jason Thompson, director of Navigate. “It’s an extreme problem with kids, high schoolers, even middle schoolers.”

SMA Healthcare in Daytona Beach’s multiple buildings each house different components of care — case managers who design a treatment plan, family counselors, individual counselors, employment or education counselors and an onsite pharmacy if medications are prescribed.

Read more about “navigate” here.


For many children, social issues like bullying also carry a stigma.

Speaking up and asking for help can be scary — something Makayla Nichols, 224, knows all too well.

Now, he is dedicating his life to inspiring others who are struggling with the Blatantly Honest Foundation.

“You know, there was kind of a turning point where I was, like, ‘I don’t want to be a victim anymore and I want to make a difference,'” Nichols said.

In 2022, she wrote a book about her experience, published a body positivity-themed coloring book for kids, and now hosts the Blatantly Honest with Makayla Nichols podcast.

Learn more about the Blatantly Honest Foundation here.


Now let’s talk about addiction.

With the nationwide overdose crisis near record levels, the FDA is announcing a solution that many believe will reduce stigma.

The federal agency recently approved the over-the-counter sale of Narcan, a name-brand overdose reversal drug. This is the first time the FDA has approved treatment for opioid overdose without a prescription.

Having this drug in the hands of first responders can make all the difference.

At the University of Central Florida, officers have routinely carried Narcan since 2015, and last year, UCF began offering the drug for free at campus pharmacies.

It can be accessed by any student or staff member with the goal of saving lives and breaking the stigma of addiction.

Several commercial pharmacies offer generic naloxone for about $30 to $90.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

PTSD is a serious problem that affects the lives of millions of men and women in uniform

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the suicide rate for people with PTSD is 13 times higher than for people without PTSD.

DA Michaels, a retired Orange County sheriff’s deputy and U.S. Navy veteran, told News 6 he came very close to being that statistic. This is what prompted her to author the book “Bravely Broken” which offers a chapter-by-chapter journey of her struggle.

“We’re all human, we all have a breaking point,” Michaels said.

He also created the Heros United To Heal website to connect people with PTSD with support groups.

Watch his interview with News 6 Investigator Mike Holfeld below.

Solutionaries is a production of the news teams at Graham Media Group stations KPRC-Houston, WDIV-Detroit, KSAT-San Antonio, WKMG-Orlando, WJXT/WCWJ-Jacksonville, and WSLS-Roanoke. On Solutions, we’re highlighting creative thinkers and doers who are working to make the world a better place.

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