The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, asks: There is a virus spreading across the country. It’s stigma. Do you have it?
In their latest campaign launched during May, which is Mental Health Month, the organization has gathered a number of celebrity ambassadors to raise awareness and propagate the message to #curestigma.
One of these celebrity ambassadors was a central character in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Jamie Gray Hyder, or as Lieutenant Nora Salter as CoD fans will recognize her, has worked extensively in the mental health sector to raise awareness. In her preparation for the iconic CoD role, she trained with members of the United States military. This opportunity afforded her a unique look at service members, the sacrifices they make, and the concern for their mental health.
For #MentalHealthMonth, let’s work to #CureStigma. If you or someone you know needs help, contact @NAMICommunicate or call their helpline at 1-800-950-6264. There are so many ways to help, love and support those suffering, passing judgement is not one of them. #NAMI #MentalHealth pic.twitter.com/EleqKWicsB
— Jamie Gray Hyder (@JGHyder) May 1, 2018
Jamie was kind enough to speak with us about what she has learned about mental health, how to help cure stigma and what Hollywood’s role in continuing the conversation can be.
How and when did you get involved with NAMI?
A couple of years ago, I learned about NAMI from a close friend, and have been keeping up with their campaigns ever since. Mental illness is something I have been impacted by on a personal level, and when recently offered the opportunity to contribute to their campaign against stigma, I jumped at the chance.
How has your work with NAMI impacted your life?
NAMI’s resources have proved invaluable in helping me understand and properly support those in my life who are suffering. It’s all about knowledge. Being able to relate to someone who is suffering, someone who feels alone, is the greatest gift you can give.
You worked with many members of the military during your time with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, what did that experience teach you about mental health?
More than anything, I learned the importance community held in helping an at-risk population keep their mental health intact. What we ask of our armed forces is super-human, yet they are made of the same flesh and blood as the rest of us. Mental health illness is something some are born with, like allergies or asthma, for others it is the consequence of experiencing something traumatic. Many who serve are experiencing several potentially traumatic events over time, and often find themselves returning to a world that cannot relate. In order to properly support our returning service members, we must educate ourselves on what it is we are thanking them for when we say “Thank you for your service.”
When did you realize how important it was to have open conversations about mental health?
We can’t find solutions to problems we aren’t talking about. We can’t help those in need if we don’t attempt to understand their challenges. I think the one thing most people suffering have in common, no matter their illness, is that they feel alone, misunderstood. Reminding them that they are not forgotten, and that they matter is something we must do as a community.
How can video games and entertainment help raise awareness and end stigma about mental health?
We can use existing communities to create safe spaces for those suffering from mental illness. Those in positions of influence need to use their powers for good, and create common ground that reminds us all to be kind and look after one another. Know the signs, learn the resources available, and start the conversation.
What have you learned about mental health while raising awareness to cure stigma?
Learning about stigma has helped me realize that mental illness can take many forms. It doesn’t often manifest itself in something physical or external, making it difficult to recognize someone who may be suffering. At the end of the day, we should all be defaulting on kindness.
Will your knowledge of mental health affect how you take on roles in the future?
Recognizing that mental health is more than a stereotype is vital when addressing the topic in any public forum. If a character I’m playing is suffering from a mental illness, it is my responsibility to do my research, so as not to present a caricature based on stigmas and stereotypes. Every individual deserves respect and consideration.
To learn more, please visit the NAMI website.