Often, in addition to dealing with the struggles of mental illness, affected individuals must also face the added challenges of misconceptions, misinformation, and misunderstandings about their disease.
The Lee Thompson Young Foundation (LTY) hopes to eliminate those added challenges by encouraging mental health literacy and understanding through education and advocacy. Working with schools, community organizations, and workplaces, LTY provides training and resources to help educate the public.
The organization is named and in honor of Lee Thomspon Young, an actor who appeared in a variety of movie and television roles. Struggling with mental illness for many years, Young never shared his troubles with anyone outside of his family.
This, according to Young’s older sister and LTY Foundation founder Tamu Lewis, is common among those who deal with mental illness.
“I’m sure there are other people in this situation, and we need to work to destigmatize mental illness so people are ok talking about it and they can let their support networks know,” Lewis said. “We are trying to combat the shame that is associated with it.”
In hopes of removing that shame and stigma, the LTY Foundation offers advanced holistic health treatments and strives to improve the lives of all those who are impacted by mental illness. According to LTY, one in five adults in the U.S. have a mental illness, but less than half will seek treatment. Through their efforts, LTY hopes to drastically change these numbers.
Through its MIND Program (Making Informed Decisions About Mental Health), LTY works with K-12 Atlanta schools to inform and educate students about mental health. The program includes providing students with effective methods to cope with stressful situations and issues within their own lives.
Lewis said these programs for young people are critical. “They are facing toxic environments: a lot of stress, anxiety, and pressure,” she said. “They feel pressure differently that we did when we were growing up, and feel a lot more.”
LTY also offers the Needs, Emotional Intelligence, Cognitive Behavior program, or NEICB, which provides tools on emotional and resilience training. Participants work through ways to develop healthy coping strategies that promote mental wellness. The program is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and focuses on each component: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
“We know that in life there are going to be challenges and stressors, but when those come up, we want to teach coping strategies and resilience to handle those challenges in a healthy way,” Lewis said.
LTY’s programs have seen great results, and growing participation. Last year, LTY had 784 individuals take part in one of their programs. By June of this year, their programs had already seen 804 participants.
LYT is a great resource for available research on mental health, and offers the latest findings on their website at www.lytfoundation.org. Individuals can also go online to find ways to volunteer and support the organization.