“Each year millions of Americans face the reality of living with a mental illness” (NAMI). Unfortunately, we as a society do not address this known fact nearly as much as is necessary. Why is that? The American Psychiatry Association breaks this answer into three parts: Public Stigma, Self-Stigma and Institutional Stigma. All three are born from ignorance, but differ in their effects on those who suffer from mental illness. Public Stigma is the most commonly known form, highlighting society’s misconstrued and harmful viewpoints on mental health. Self-Stigma is the inability for one to accept his/her own mental health issues. Institutional Stigma is a lack of support for mental health from a governmental policy standpoint. How do we fight ignorance and stigmas when it is so deeply ingrained in our daily lives? Awareness.
Mental Health and The Chefs
A main focal point of The Chefs’ mission is to help promote a more socially aware society for all matters, including Mental Health. Chef Anthony, Chef Albert and Chef KD have all had their struggles with mental health. As mentioned in the previous blog (Who Are The Chefs?), all three young men have experienced their fair share of hardships. Among other issues, Chef Anthony copes with Autism, Chef Albert copes with the knowledge that his kidneys will undoubtedly cause him hardship for the rest of his life, and Chef KD copes with the horrific sights and experiences he endured during his time in Afghanistan.
How do they do it: cope with all of their struggles? Mindfulness and Meditation. While the answer is quick and easy, the same cannot be said for the execution. A clear and calm mind is difficult to achieve, especially for those whose mental health struggles run deep. However, it is not an impossible task. The Chefs are a living testimonial.
The Chefs’ craft allows all three men to simultaneously work and clear their mind. “Whether [they are] chopping, slicing, whipping, marinating, or kneading, the art of mindful cooking presents the opportunity to anchor the mind and focus attention on the senses” (Headspace). When they are in the kitchen, all of their worries wash away. In that moment, there is no illness. It is just them, their ingredients and their tools.
A Call for De-Stigmatization
The Chefs hope that through their platform, they may assist in de-stigmatizing the World’s viewpoint on Mental Illness and inspire others to rise up against their own mental health struggles. They know what it is like to be at war with their own mind and want to help others win that battle. They understand that not all mental illnesses are created equal and that there is no quick fix. Yet it is an open mind, an open heart and an eagerness to listen that can make all of the difference in a person’s life.
There is too much negativity in this World today for people to be up in arms about mental health. We all need to work together to end the stigma. It is unfortunate that so many people resort to self-harm of any form, as opposed to seeking support. People should feel compelled to reach out for help when they are not thinking straight. De-stigmatizing Mental Illness will provide people with a voice to speak out about their struggles, and will grant access to those who seek progressive and transformative resources.
Message from The Chefs:
Prioritize yourself. Focus on improving your own well-being. Surround yourself with supportive people. Do what makes you happy. Practice a form of mindfulness (i.e. meditation, yoga, cooking, etc.) to gain/re-gain control of your mind.
Make your mental health a priority.