One young girl in Copperas Cove, Texas is making sure mental health care is at the top of her community's mind. De-stigmatizing mental health in the black community is very important. Looking at her now, you see a young girl competing, being an actress and winning pageants.
Dorianna Gilbert, a seventh grader in Copperas Cove ISD, and winner of Preteen Miss Five Hills 2021 said, "I just won in March, I won preteen Miss Five Hills." Dorianna has starred in the Amazon television series Panic, Season 6 Fear the Walking Dead television series, and countless commercials. Dorianna is now confident in the skin she's in, but she wasn't always this way. When Dorianna was in the third grade, she says she remembers being bullied, teased, and taunted over things she couldn't control. Dorianna said, "My platform of service this year is anti-bullying awareness and teen suicide prevention awareness.”I chose that because I used to get bullied. They used to say just rude things to me."
She was suffering in silence until the taunting became too much to bear on her own. So, eventually, she turned to the only person she could, her mother, Shannoda Gilbert. “Once it started to become a daily thing, I started to get sadder ,and I had to tell someone because it didn't feel right bottling it up," said Dorianna. "Without my mom, I don’t know where I could be right now."
Shannoda hung on to every word her daughter told her, grateful her daughter felt comfortable enough to talk to her about what she was going through.
"I have seen friends of mine whose kids have taken their lives as a result of being bullied and stuff like that. So, for her to feel comfortable enough with me to come and talk to me about that it really meant a lot," said Shannoda. Initially, mental health was not always a priority for Shannoda. After Shannoda lost her own mother at a young age, and then spent some time in the military, her attitude changed when it comes to mental health.
"My husband and I both served in the military and went overseas, so PTSD is something that we always talk with our children about. There is definitely a stigma about mental health with black people. Within the last few years, there's been a profound push for mental health nationwide, but in the black community there is still resistance to opening up and getting help.
Stigma and judgment prevent black and African American people from seeking treatment for their mental illnesses. Research indicates that blacks and African Americans believe that mild depression or anxiety would be considered ‘crazy’ in their social circles. Furthermore, many believe that discussions about mental illness would not be appropriate, even among family. We have to change the perception of mental illness in the African American community by encouraging people to get the help they need; focuses on stigma/self-stigma reduction and building trust between black people and the mental health field,” Dorianna’s mother further stated.
Dorianna is the daughter of Shannoda Gilbert from Swainsboro and Derrick Gilbert, Sr. of Little Rock, Arkansas. The maternal grandmother is the late Sharline Knight from Swainsboro and the paternal grandmother Marion Gilbert Smith of Little Rock, Arkansas. She is the niece of Evanell Brown, Mamie Johnson and Robert Knight, both of Swainsboro, and Vernon Knight and Linda Dunlap from Metter.
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