Growing Up Where the Code is BE STRONG AND TRUST NO ONE!

Our new Outreach Program Manager, Otis Ward, who has been with Family Paths since 2019 as one of our Parent Education instructors, offers his perspective in response to this New York Times article about The Extra Stigma of Mental Illness for African-Americans.


I was Born in Berkeley and raised up in East Oakland. I have experienced my share of trauma but learned to deal with my issues by suppressing them and imbedding my anger deep inside my heart. This is how most people grow up in communities like Oakland, California where the code is be strong and trust no one!

I never understood the disparities which surrounded me while growing up as a youth. I used to think counseling services were only for extreme mental health illnesses until I received counseling some 5 years ago. I grew up believing the only time someone received counseling was if they were in extreme crisis and needed hospitalization. Through my personal experiences and education, I learned this was not the truth.

A few years ago, I had some problems that were affecting me at work, as well as in my personal life. A friend recommended counseling, and after much thought I decided to get help! The extra support got me through a tough time and prevented me from making some bad decisions.

Today I’m an advocate for mental health services and continue to seek counseling in various areas when needed, which has added to my success in life.

Many suffer from traumatizing issues, and because of the “word on the streets,” many believe they can overcome the monsters which haunt them daily on their own, especially people of color. I’m thankful for my friend today for caring enough about me to refer behavioral health services as a better way of support in life!