WATCH: ‘Solutionaries: Breaking stigmas’ | Normalizing conversations about abuse, mental health, addiction

Solutions journalism aims to find real answers to today’s problems

ORLANDO, Fla. – When a loved one gets the flu you would expect them to see a doctor for treatment.

But if a loved one is struggling with a mental disorder, addiction or symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease, why can seeking help be viewed in a negative way?

That’s because of stigma.

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Stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.

Negative societal judgment surrounding mental health, domestic violence and medical conditions can cause someone to delay treatment and the consequences can be deadly.

[RELATED: Solutionaries: Why do we look for solutions?]

So how do we end the discrimination and shame?

Let’s start with an issue that affects people of all genders: abuse.

If you or someone you love needs help, start by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or text “START” to 88788.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Another big stigma we’re taking on today is STDs.

Certain medical conditions may come with feelings of embarrassment and shame, prompting some people to keep their diagnoses a secret.

Leaving STDs untreated and uncommunicated can have detrimental effects on both the health of the individual and others.

That’s why Solutionaries is working to make conversations more comfortable while slowing the spread.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, Florida currently ranks second in the nation for the highest rate of new HIV cases.

HIV diagnoses refers to the number of people who received an HIV diagnosis each year.

Orange County is one of the top five areas in the nation for new cases, data shows.

Childhood Mental Illness

We’ve come a long way in treating serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia.

But despite these advances, stigma continues to be a reality, for example, in movies where mental illness is often depicted with violent or dangerous people.

For parents of children suffering from hallucinations, finding the right kind of care can be extremely difficult.

SMA Healthcare in Daytona Beach’s “Navigate” program offers a solution.

“It could be hearing voices, delusional, they see other individuals around them, they hear people talking to them,” Jason Thompson, director of Navigate said. “It’s an extreme problem with kids, high schoolers, even middle schoolers.”

The multiple buildings at SMA Healthcare in Daytona Beach each house the different components of care — case managers who design a treatment plan, family counselors, individual counselors, employment or education counselors and an onsite pharmacy if medication is prescribed.

Read more about “Navigate” HERE.


For many children, social issues like bullying also come with a stigma.

Speaking up and asking for help can be scary — something Makaila Nichols, 224, knows very well.

Now, she’s dedicating her life to inspiring others who are struggling with the Blatantly Honest Foundation.

“You know, there was kind of a turning point where I was, like, ‘I don’t want to be the victim anymore and I want to make a difference,’” Nichols said.

In 2022, she wrote a book about her experiences, published a body positivity-themed coloring book for kids and now hosts the Blatantly Honest with Makaila Nichols podcast.

Learn more about the Blatantly Honest Foundation HERE.


Let’s talk now about addiction.

With the nationwide overdose crisis near record levels, the FDA is announcing a solution many believe will reduce the stigma.

The federal agency recently approved the over-the-counter sale of Narcan, a name-brand overdose reversal drug. It’s the first time the FDA has ever supported treatment for opioid overdoses without a prescription.

Getting this drug in the hands of first responders can make all the difference.

At the University of Central Florida, officers have been routinely carrying Narcan since 2015 and last year, UCF started offering the drug for free at the campus pharmacy.

Any student or staff member who wants it can get it, with the goal of saving lives and breaking the stigma of addiction.

Several commercial pharmacies offer generic naloxone for around $30 to $90.

Post-traumatic stress disorder

PTSD is a serious issue impacting the lives of millions of men and women in uniform.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, people with PTSD had 13 times the rate of suicide than persons without PTSD.

Retired Orange County Sheriff’s deputy and U.S. Navy veteran DA Michaels tells News 6 she came very close to becoming that statistic. That’s what prompted her to author the book “Courageously Broken” which offers a chapter-by-chapter journey of her struggles.

“We’re all human we all have a breaking point,” Michaels said.

She also created the website Heros United To Heal to connect people suffering from PTSD with support groups.

Watch her interview with News 6 Investigator Mike Holfeld below.

Solutionaries is a production of the news teams at Graham Media Group stations KPRC-Houston, WDIV-Detroit, KSAT-San Antonio, WKMG-Orlando, WJXT/WCWJ-Jacksonville, and WSLS-Roanoke. On Solutionaries, we’re highlighting the creative thinkers and doers who are working to make the world a better place.

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About the Author:

Katrina Scales is a producer for the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m. She also writes and voices the podcast Your Florida Daily. Katrina was born and raised in Brevard County and started her journalism career in radio before joining News 6 in June 2021.