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Miller Receives National Award for Mental Health Advocacy

Rwenshaun Miller of Charlotte, N.C., was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006 when he was 20 years old. For years, he struggled and hid his diagnosis, avoided medication and self-medicated with alcohol, he said.

He attempted suicide three times before deciding to change his life and start using his experience to help others, he said. “That final attempt was like the wakeup call,” said Miller, now 31.

Miller is now a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and the Founder and Executive Director of Eustress, Inc. In May, he received the American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF) Award for Advancing Minority Mental Health, a national award, for working to end the stigma around mental health. Miller was presented with the award at the APAF Benefit in New York City.

Through his non-profit, Eustress Inc., Miller raises mental health awareness, particularly in the black community, using educational content, trainings, workshops, and annual “Let’s Talk About It” walks in Charlotte and Chapel Hill, N.C., as well as in Bertie County. Through Eustress, Miller partners with various organizations and works to raise awareness on issues that affect mental health, and provides tools and techniques to manage them.

One of Miller’s current projects, called Pathway to Eustress, is to raise enough money to provide 100,000 copies of his autobiographical book, “Injured Reserve: A Black Man’s Playbook for when Mental Illness Sidelines You” to men in jail and prison. He said the book tells his story but also challenges the reader to start thinking about their own mental health and to seek help if they need it.

Another of Miller’s projects is the “Let's Talk About It” series, which brings men and women together for a conversation about how to support each other through times of mental and emotional stress. Miller says he believes that by talking about the stresses of life, the stigma associated with mental illness is reduced. 

“For years I lived with that voice on a loud speaker in my head, and believed that it was normal to feel discouraged, inadequate and frustrated at the world, especially as a black man in America,” Miller said. But now he feels differently, he said.

Miller earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009 and a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Montreat College in 2016. He said he’s now working on his doctoral degree.

Miller said he believes it’s important to pay special attention to raising awareness about mental health among minorities.

“We are raised – especially in the black population – to just grin and bear it,” Miller said. “It’s just suck it up and keep going. It’s been affecting us for generations. Life is stressful for everyone. We need to make sure people are addressing their needs.”

APAF, the non-profit programming arm of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), established the award Miller received to recognize outstanding psychiatrists, mental health professionals and programs, and community organizations that have worked to:

  • Raise awareness of mental illness in underserved minority communities and the need for early recognition, the availability of treatment and how to access it, and the cultural barriers to treatment
  • Increase access to quality mental health services for underserved minority communities
  • Improve the quality of care for underserved minority populations, particularly those in the public health system or with severe mental illness

The APAF administers public outreach programs and support aimed at eliminating stigma, overcoming mental illness and advancing mental health. It is the non-profit arm of the APA, an organization of psychiatrists working together to ensure humane care and effective treatment for all individuals with mental illness, including substance use disorder. The APA has more than 37,800 members involved in psychiatric practice, research and academia in more than 100 countries.

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