Thu | Oct 18, 2018

Beyond the Call of Beauty : A match on mental health

Published:Sunday | September 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMKrysta Anderson
Diedre McKenzie
Diedre McKenzie
Diedre McKenzie

Mental Health is a topic often overlooked by many. For this week's Beyond the Call of Beauty, we feature a young woman who has taken matters into her own hands.

"I have never been diagnosed with a mental illness, but I have always been ashamed to do a check-up because of the stigma that is attached to it. I can only imagine how other persons might feel when they know that something is wrong, but they do not want the result to be mental because 'mental' in our society means 'madness'," 2014 Miss Universe Jamaica Pageant contestant Diedre McKenzie told Outlook.

Some days, McKenzie says, she would find herself on Google, researching on her feelings, trying to grasp the reason for her cheerful personality one day and her defeated, mistreated and misunderstood demeanour the next. But it was when her grandaunt was diagnosed with breast cancer that she begun putting mental health in perspective.

"During the period from when she was given her result in 2012 to the time that she passed in 2013, the strength that I once knew from her had weakened. The closer she got to her passing was the more she spoke to her sadness and the wish for it all to be over. It was then that I really saw the true effects of cancer or any other major illness. It is not just that it affects you physically, but carries you through mental and emotional turmoil, too," she said.

So in 2014, she put thoughts into action, using her passion for styling and creative directing, against the platform of Miss Universe Jamaica 2014, to stage a photo shoot for women who were patients and survivors of cancer. The purpose of the shoot was to recreate the perception of physical image in a more positive and accepting light, despite their circumstance, showing appreciation of their growth and their successes in battling such a disease.




But she wanted to do more. So she started an image consultancy business, hoping that she would find the fix through fashion. But the root of mental illness stems much deeper than the outfit someone may wear. Sometimes all you really want is someone there to be a source of motivation, so she decided to step out of the dark, shedding some light on the knowledge she gained with the rest of her community. That's where her new website comes in.

"The website is a '', so to speak, for mental illness. A place where you can find information, get contacts to professionals and watch and read motivational, inspirational content as well as testimonials from everyday people. It's a site where you can speak in anonymity and without the fear of being judged, and a place where you can get the help you deserve," she added.




The only problem was, where to start? Already, she has begun building a team of her peers, who are creative in so many ways, along with a team of persons in the industry of mental health development, who will work on designing the site, campaign material as well as content. "I have received immense support towards the project and I am hoping that as the project begins to take form, more investors and participants will come on board." The site should officially be up and running by next year.

Her advice to those currently facing mental health issues is not be afraid, "Our fear of the issue is what prevents us from working through it. People only criticise it because they themselves aren't sure what it is; and once you make it your duty to educate yourself, then that stigma will soon fade."